Soul to Zoul: Jasper Rees on Womack and Womack, aka Zeriiya and Zekkariyas, at the Jazz Cafe

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The Independent Online
There's a precedent for Womack and Womack, and their name is Wings. You'd have thought they wouldn't have much common ground beyond their alphabetical proximity in record stores, but at the nucleus of both acts is a left-handed refugee from a seminal Sixties band and a wife called Linda.

The difference is that Linda Eastman was a photographer by trade, and still can't sing; Linda Cooke was the daughter of the father of soul. She sang Sam Cooke's 'Wonderful World' in the intimate milieu of the Jazz Cafe, and even the participation of the audience could not dim its light.

The first song on Paul McCartney's first solo album was called 'Lovely Linda', and if his record company would let him you could bet on Cecil Womack using the title every time. Instead he makes do by giving each new song the same introduction. 'This song's about love,' he said about 15 times, and quite a few of them are among the subtlest and unsoppiest songs about love from the last 20 years. 'Teardrops', 'Love Wars', 'Baby I'm Scared of You', 'Eyes' - not many songwriting partnerships can hold a candle to them. Even fewer can deliver melodies with the lilting purity and joyous drive in the voice of Mrs Womack, a kind of Jane to her husband's gruff, bare-chested Tarzan.

But these days there's more on the Womacks' agenda than domesticated amour and family values. 'Conscious of My Conscience', with which they opened, gave the first sign of a preoccupation with slave roots. Their most recent album, Transformation to the House of Zekkariyas, takes atavism a stage further to Nigeria, where the Womacks unearthed ancestral ties and some zappy new names. He's Zekkariyas, she's Zeriiya. Their zillion children have names beginning with Z. Though they often appear onstage with Mum and Dad, this time they must have been catching up with their Zzzs.

The new album got a look- in, through 'Long Time' and 'Secret Star', but the Womack clan have far too rich a history to dwell in the present. 'It's All Over Now', written by his brother Bobby, made famous by a bunch of scruffs from Dartford and nodding towards Cecil's Gospel past as a member of the Valentinos, gave some inkling of those riches. There were cheeky covers of 'Ain't No Stopping Us Now' and 'Take Me Home, Country Roads', while a version of 'People Get Ready' said as eloquently as anyone could that, since Curtis Mayfield's accident, the Womacks are now the conscience of soul.

Cecil takes the role so seriously that he augments the lyrics with spoken words of his own: 'Oh yeah, this is one of the most important lines,' he says, or 'This is the sad part here.' In anyone else this would qualify as post-modernist behaviour. He's a dilettante on guitar, she doodles at the drums, but when they led the band through serial reprises of 'Celebrate the World', the Womacks were in earnest.

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