Multi-instrumentalist, vocalist and song-writer S.E. (Steve) Willis has been making great music for over fifty years as part of any number of internationally known bands and has seven of his own recordings to show for it.
His latest solo shot, Too Much Love will dazzle listeners by way of his breadth of Americana chops, whether within the genre of Blues, zydeco, country western and then some.
Playing with an inspired band, including several stellar West Coast guest artists, Willis (who’s played with Elvin Bishop for almost two decades,) has created a compelling effort, from first cut to last.
Featuring eleven tracks over 44-minutes, the album was put down at recording ace David Landon’s Whip Records, Christoffer “Kid” Andersen’s Greaseland Records, and Willis’ own Mr. Suchensuch studio, all of which are to be headquartered in the greater Bay Area.
The production throughout the disc is clean and extremely present. Andersen (of Rick Estrin and the Nightcats fame,) assumes several duties, among them engineering on several tracks, as well as contributing tasteful acoustic and riveting electric guitar work.
“Turn Back” embellishes a cool New Orleans groove along with Willis’ yearning and deeply felt vocals. Listen for Lisa Leuschner’s background vocals here. She is a revelation. Master keyboardist Willis turns over lead vocals to marvelous drummer Bobby Cochran (Elvin Bishop band) on three tracks, one of which, “I Sure Don’t Know Who Does,” co-stars powerhouse contralto & rising star, Marina Crouse.
The insanely fun instrumental, “Apocalypto” bounces along with Nancy Wright’s fluid and infectious sax work. “My Happy Home” and “Honky Tonk Romance” showcase Willis’ country-western leanings. His harmonica playing and wizened vocals on both, along with Wright singing background vocals on the latter could melt the grime off a barstool.
“Crawl Off and Die” showcases the multi-talented Willis on accordion along with his strong, yet plaintive vocal. “Let That Be The Reason” has a marvelously funky beat with great leads and fills by sax-woman Wright, and excellent all-around guitarist Danny Caron (Charles Brown, Marcia Ball, Clifton Chenier, John Lee Hooker, among many others.) The mid-tempo but upbeat title track showcases Willis harmonica & accordion prowess, plus a jaunty vocal by Cochran.
Must give major props to longtime Bay Area bass player, Ruth Davies (Charles Brown, Elvis Costello and a ton of others,) who throughout is the solid sender within the rhythm section.
In all, a truly enjoyable romp, and excellent showcase for S.E’s prominent place on the national scene.
Too Much Love
Mr. Suchensuch Records
Published November 2019
Blues Music Magazine