Via classic ’60s singles on Rustone and Frisco, as well as a stint with the Meters, Willie West can be considered a New Orleans R&B trail blazer. West is still extremely active, practicing his trade in St. Cloud, Minnesota, where he relocated after Katrina. Co-produced with Carl Marshall—who once had a studio and a Southern soul/blues label on North Broad—West covers
a lot of ground on Can’t Help Myself.
The Willie West show gets started with the righteous “Ain’t Going for That,” a song structured very much like a mid-tempo classic Bobby Bland song. Unfortunately, the song is marred by an over-the-top guitarist (appropriately nicknamed “Primetime”) and some slightly annoying background singers. “Come Back to New Orleans” is one of those songs that makes me grind my teeth, belabored with references to red beans, gumbo, partying all night, second-lining, blah-blah-blah.
West really gets down to business, though, on the title track, with early-Seventies Malaco grooves a la King Floyd / Wardell Quezergue / Jean Knight. So, too, does he on “Not as Sweet as You” with its invitation-to-the-dance-floor rhythm. Other songs of merit include: “I’ll Live” which has an attractive pre-disco Tyrone Davis feel, and “Waiting on You,” which is reminiscent of those great soul ballads that poured out of Philadelphia in the early ’70s.
Actually, so, too, is the ballad “NOLA My Home”—which had been previously recorded by C.P. Love—as it avoids most of the usual New Orleans clichés. There are a few bumps in the road, but West can still deliver the goods. If soul/blues is your bag, you just might want to give this one a spin.