Willie Johnson – “Lay It On Me” – Drive Records (1971)

Willie Johnson

Willie Johnson photo by Garry Cape via Sir Shambling

Willie Johnson – “Lay It On Me” (Drive)
Willie Johnson, sometimes known as Little Willie Johnson, is an underground sensation whose works on Henry Stone’s CAT, and Drive record labels, despite limited pressings, no real chart action, and lack of media attention, have transcended the decades to become favorites on the lists of the top DJ’s and collectors in the soul genre. “Lay It On Me” offers an instantly replayable and universally relatable rhythm and blues. The tune sounds as fresh today as in its 1971 release date.

The Bahamian guitar chop and funky drummer on the track perfectly complement Johnson’s vocals, which don’t so much copy James Brown as exhibit similar roots and life experience. Like Brown, Johnson is from Georgia; and every breath is redolent of both sanctified gospel, and unholy blues. The Caribbean effect of recording with Miami players, engineers, and producers stirs up a combination which creates a soulified funk that will float the music through the centuries, while speaking on topics such as love and lust insure that people the world over will always understand where Johnson is coming from. If only there were more of his music on wax, Johnson may have been a household name. But as it stands, music fans should be thankful for the gifts he gave the world, grooves with a soul that shines brighter than a Miami summer day and a rhythm that just won’t quit.

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