Straight out of Oxford, Mississippi, Herbert Wiley and his Mates insist that they are not an “appraisal of music that came out some 40 years ago,” but if you hear southern soul that recalls the glory days of soul, you’re not alone. Wiley’s voice reveals the wisdom that comes with age when he speaks about the struggles of life and love with his southern Mississippi accent on the slow ballad, “I Did my Part.” The simple guitar melody and steady bongo beat smoothly melt into the gentle rise and fall of the trumpet.
Fellow Checkmate Tricanna McGee occasionally but nicely blends her strong alto vocals in harmony with Wiley’s on the Stax-like “I Want Your Love in My Life,” but the strength of the album is in its directness. There are no double entendres, no self-conscious efforts at innovation. Instead, the Checkmates provide the sort of classic soul sonic framework for a singer who doesn’t fool around with metaphors. Wiley’s a blues man, and he’s speaking his mind with passion. And as history and We Call it Soul shows, passion goes a long, long way.