Tre Williams and the Revelations
Club Helsinki Hudson
May 19, 2012
Review by Seth Rogovoy
(HUDSON, N.Y.) – Those wondering whatever happened to classic soul – that’s classic soul, the politically and sexually infused sound of Marvin Gaye and Bobby Womack, without the smoothed-out edges of so much neo-soul – need look no further than Tre Williams and the Revelations, who performed an earnest set at Club Helsinki Hudson on Saturday night before an appreciative crowd of listeners and even a few dancers.
Vocalist Williams was backed more than ably by a trio of players, a stripped-down version of the Revelations sans horns and keyboards, lending the proceedings more of a rock-fueled sound courtesy of guitarist Wes Mingus, drummer Gintas Janusonis, and bassist Josh Werner. The players also harmonized vocally with Williams, who boasts a wide range of tone and emotion – alternately silk and gravel — as they replicated some of the vintage licks and riffs from the best of the Stax/Volt soul machine.
The group kicked off the proceedings with a rendition of the old Al Green hit, “Take Me to the River,” hypercharged with some Rolling Stones-style rock grit. Williams’s own composition, “Concrete Blues” – the title track to the group’s second album – was in the vein of Marvin Gaye’s What’s Going On? material both in its socially charged lyrics (about the effects of the Great Recession on the permanently unemployed underclass) and its sly funk groove.
Williams got more personal on a few numbers and his stage banter, including on “Troubled Man,” about battling inner adversity, and on the wellspring of that side of his songbook, Bobby Womack’s “Nobody Wants You When You’re Down and Out.”
With the band’s stripped-down format making this less a James Brown-style stage show and more of an intimate soul man’s showcase, Saturday night’s show perhaps didn’t rise to the inspirational heights of some of the Revelations’ past performances. And while Williams is an able student of Gaye and Womack and their ilk, he has yet to find fully his own voice and direction, necessary if he is ever going to make his own mark out from their lofty shadows.
Still, for a Saturday night in Hudson, the funk was thick and meaty and the sounds were electric, and it was clear that given a bigger crowd, a keyboard player and a horn section, next time the Revelations perform here, it will be a full-fledged soul shakedown.
Seth Rogovoy is an award-winning music critic and author of Bob Dylan: Prophet Mystic Poet.