Album: Little Beaver

The Very Best of..., EMI / Stateside

A welcome side-effect of Joss Stone's success has been the revival of interest in the early Seventies Florida soul scene that furnished her session players on The Soul Sessions. There's a new Betty Wright albm in the offing, and Stateside is issuing retrospective compilations of Latimore and Timmy Thomas alongside this splendid collection from guitarist Willie Hale, aka Little Beaver. Although a fairly one-dimensional vocalist, and boasting few lyrical pretensions, Little Beaver is a superb guitarist with an unerring grasp of the power of syncopation, never better than when lending a funky offbeat twitch to a track. His work on Wright's landmark "Clean Up Woman" is justly revered for its infectious springiness, closely revisited here in the interlocking guitar lines of "Groove On", though his signature work remains the laid-back funk-soul groove "Party Down (Pts 1 & 2)", a song that retains the indefinable magic of a classic, 30 years later. Here, and in similar exercises such as "Let the Good Times Roll" and "I Can Dig It Baby", Beaver suspends his relaxed guitar grooves upon the metronomic drum-machine beats, with a lightness of touch that recalls the likes of Eric Gale, Cornell Dupree and Gabor Szabo.

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