The self-titled debut album from Willie and the Giant is a double shot of vintage rock and soul. The retro-minded Nashville band cut these new songs at all-analog studio Welcome to 1979, where an impressive list of legends and contemporaries have recorded before them—Todd Snider and Dave Schools’ Hard Working Americans, The North Mississippi All-Stars, Those Darlins, Jason Isbell, even Animals frontman Eric Burdon.
We wanted that warm, saturated sound that you can only get from tape,” frontman Will Stewart says, ” and Welcome to 1979 specializes in just that. It was cozy, too. Everything there is intentionally stylized to take you four decades back in time.”
“It definitely felt like a special place,” adds six-foot-five lead guitarist Jon Poor (aka The Giant). “From the minute we walked in, we were instantly at ease.”
This positive feel carried over to the sessions, which found the Nashville group’s Alabama roots on prominent display. Both Stewart and Poor were veterans of the Birmingham scene before relocating to Nashville, striking up a friendship and starting Willie and the Giant. For their self-titled debut LP (out April 21 on Cumberland Brothers Music), the band’s two singer-guitarists, plus bassist Grant Prettyman and drummer Mac Kramer were joined in the studio by friend and ‘Bama staple Matt Slocum—who tours with Black Crowes guitarist Rich Robinson—on keys.
Glide is premiering the lead track “Loose Ends,” a song that easily recollects the most endearing moments of 70’s rock including Paul Simon and The Allman Brothers Band and sounds like a B Side on The New Basement Tapes LP.
“With ‘Loose Ends,’ I was messing around on guitar one Sunday with a simple chord progression—I had the rhythm I wanted, then I started humming the general structure of the melody. I added a pre-chorus, bridge and a chorus later that day, ” recounts Stewart about the single.
“A few weeks went by, and I played the song at Willie and the Giant rehearsal and we began hashing out the arrangement. Our drummer Mac initially followed my strum pattern for the intro beat, but then we decided to go with a straight four-on-the-floor beat for the verse to make it dance and add dynamics. The dual-guitar outro was added a few weeks after we started rehearsing the song—it’s a tip of the hat to the Dickey Betts/Duane Allman-style guitar harmonies I grew up listening to for hours on end in my bedroom as a kid, and I think it’s a fitting way to close out the song.
“Lyrically, ‘Loose Ends’ is about redemption and handling personal problems that had been left hanging in the balance. I wanted it to have an uplifting feel, and an overall sense of resolve. We recorded pretty much everything for the song live to tape at Welcome to 1979 studios in Nashville. Only the dual guitar lines and the vocals were overdubbed. Outside of that, everything was live, and we’re very happy with the way it turned out.”
The spontaneous results on the album offer up plenty of eclectic magic— sweltering swamp grooves, dark and lonesome spaghetti-Western tunes offset by feel-good soul-pop ditties, gorgeous dueling guitar melodies, fist-pumping no-frills American rock & roll, glammy ‘70s raveups, fiery Southern anthems and stadium-ready psychedelic blues epics.
To preorder the new album visit the band’s website.