Aaron Williams and the Hoodoo

by Josh Miller
March 2009

Aaron Williams and the Hoodoo - Funky Blues from Madison, WI

Aaron Williams and the Hoodoo - Funky Blues from Madison, WI

Prepare for the next wave of dizzying rattle of drums and intoxicating hum of blues guitars.

A mystical hoodoo spell drifts among Midwest bars and clubs; one of funk, blues and rock and roll. AARON WILLIAMS AND THE HOODOO, born of the Madison blues scene, plan to keep it that way with shows around Wisconsin (including a stop at Maximum Ink’s 13th anniversary party March 20) and the rest of the Midwest.

“We like to say that we lack subtleness,” says Williams, of the band’s blues-rock music.  “I think it’s the idea of just going balls to the wall. A lot of bands out there are a little more laid back, especially in our field of music, and we really go at it from start to end of our shows and we keep up that high energy.”

High energy contemporary blues is what Williams calls it.  With spontaneous moments each night, audiences get something a little different at each show.  With the release of their first full album, “It Ain’t Easy,” on April 25 at the Crystal Corner Bar in Madison they hope to attract even more fans to their newly written music.

“We fully believe you’re only as good as your last show so we try to make it as different and as good as possible,” says Williams.

Their high octane blues hoodoo spell entered the scene in Jan. 2007 at the now closed Cuda Café in Deerfield, WI.  Williams had grown up playing with world-wide known blues guitarists such as Michael Coleman, Glen Davis, Buddy Guy, and his father Joe Andersen’s band Cadillac Joe Blues Band but never held a front man position.

“My dad got sick then and didn’t want to do the jam [at the Cuda Café] anymore and I still wanted to play,” says Williams.  “He gave me the choice of picking up and taking over the jam and I had never led a band or anything like that.”

He quickly attracted a following of his own in Madison.  Drummer Eric Shackelford, a student of one of the players in his father’s band, took notice. Drawn to their similar interest in blues-rock of Hendrix and Cream, the two began jam sessions together. They wanted their own bands so they contacted bass player Zac Auner. With Auner’s ability to plays anything from funk to jazz, it helped create mobility in their genre.

“The three of us pretty much have the same attitude as far as what we want out of music and it’s worked out really well,” Williams said. “[Zac] never played blues before us and he’s incorporated what he knows into our music. Some of the songs he writes are pretty interesting because they mix a lot of the heavier stuff and Eric and I put our blues-rock touch on it.”

Now a trio, the band figured there needed to be one more player.  After some searching they found saxophone player Pete Ross. For over a year the quartet exerted their funk branded blues-rock balls-to-the-walls style of playing to crowds in Madison and Wisconsin. From there they played and sold out shows in the Midwest as far North Dakota and Indiana like it was their last. 

Bob Griggas, the owner of the Cuda Café, said the first time he heard the band that he knew they had potential.

“You could see then that they could go somewhere,” says Griggas.  “Professionally, they’re a great group of musicians. They’re really committed to what they do.  Each time I see them they get better.  They get better the longer they’re together.”

Despite Ross leaving the band last May and taking some of his funk influence with him, the band has continued their hard hitting attitude towards their music with their rock-blues powerhouse origins. That attitude has gotten them many fans from around the Midwest, a feat that impresses Williams’s father.

“It’s pretty amazing that it’s only been a year or so and they’ve gotten so far,” says Andersen. “[Aaron’s] pretty talented so I shouldn’t be too surprised.”

For the band it takes hard work and patience to find something new and original.

“We know that nobody’s going to give us anything so we have to go after it,” says Williams. “I think a lot of people listening to blues or blues rock will be used to listening to slow blues and shuffles but we keep it up and keep people there.”

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