The bio on Wiley and The Checkmates’ MySpace page notes that in addition to a range of other venues, this soul-slinging five man outfit occasionally graces the stages of “Alabama frat bars.” Reading this after listening to The Checkmates second LP, one can clearly visualize the sweat soaked young 20-somethings staggering onto the streets of a Southern college town, stunned from being smacked sideways with a thick slab of Herbert Wiley’s stomping party soul.
Certainly, this band must burn it down live but, as We Call It Soul ably demonstrates, they have a pretty good notion of how to put the party on record too. Not surprising, perhaps, considering the bands considerable pedigree and credentials: Herbert Willey formed the original incarnation of The Checkmates in 1960 and made a name playing behind legends like Percy Sledge, et al. The current line-up includes LCD Soundsystem’s touring guitarist J.D. Mark and rock-solid bassist Matt Patton.
Indeed, great talent and energy throughout ensure that We Call It Soul doesn’t suffer from any dead spots or excess baggage-even when the tempo dips. In fact, the album’s slowest track, the swelling, surging, profoundly soulful “All-The-Way Wrong” is probably its strongest. Wiley’s syrupy growl of a voice bear hugs the organ drenched track and informs some misguided lover that they will not be walking all over this man. Also worth mentioning is the somewhat more progressive “Set Your Mind Free” which features an effects-enhanced Wiley inviting listeners to leave their earthly problems behind and take a trip around the galaxy.
The track moves along at a good clip but Wiley manages to make it all sound so relaxing — which will be a boon to anyone nursing a hangover and recovering from The Checkmates' body moving assault. Fraternity brothers take note: you’re going to be sweating through that blue oxford shirt.