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Willie Hightower
WILLIE HIGHTOWER
(Astralwerks)

This magnificent, heart-pounding reissue (due out this Tuesday) encapsulates everything thatís great about 1970s Southern soul. Hailing from Gadsden, Alabama, Willie Hightower recorded the 18 tracks collected here at Rick Hallís Fame studio, where such hits as Etta Jamesís "Iíd Rather Go Blind," Otis Reddingís "You Left the Water Running," and Aretha Franklinís "Do Right Woman, Do Right Man" were born, and it is no exaggeration to say that his largely unknown work equals those revered popular favorites. Smooth but gritty, with urgent phrasing and a rapturous croon that could melt female hearts and make sinners repent, Hightowerís voice goes down on one knee when necessary but can also express great joy and conviction. He remakes Joe Southís "Walk a Mile in My Shoes" as a galloping, up-tempo call to glory; itís one of his three singles. The albumís 18 tracks (Willie released only one album in the 1970s) include a relaxed "If I Had a Hammer" and Sam Cookeís "Somebody Have Mercy" as well as Hightower originals. The good news is that he still lives in Gadsden. And heís reported to be working on his second album.

BY KEN MICALLEF


Issue Date: January 21 - 27, 2005
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