At the time at which Peter Lowry and Bruce Bastin found Willie Trice, after a tip from Buddy Moss, Willie had gone through a period in which he had not done a lot of playing. Moreover, he had serious physical challenges, and had recently lost both of his legs from the knee down due to diabetic complications. That having been said, it is apparent from the first notes that Willie Trice plays on the LP that there is no need to make allowances for his infirmities in listening to his music. Far from being the pale memory of a once-great player's music, the renditions here are muscular and alertly engaged, from the beginning of the program right through to its end.
How can Willie Trice's sound be characterized? Willie's singing voice was a light baritone with a bright sort of overtone to it, and his delivery was very country. He was not an urban guy and made no bones about it. His tone on the guitar was big, full, and ringing--not sloppy, but also not being struck carefully to avoid mistakes. Willie's most distinctive quality, it seems to me, resided in his phrasing and sense of time. In these areas, he was so much his own man, and definitely not a member of the musical herd adhering to formal conventions. As a result, his phrasing could be angular, metrically irregular and yet swinging and danceable. Indeed, the infectiousness of his rhythm often masks the thorniness of his conception until you listen with an ear to figure out what he's doing, at which point you say, "Wait a second!" He was fond of inserting chordal resolutions into forms in places where you are not accustomed to hearing them. He was not a player who relegated the thumb of his right hand to any kind of regular time-keeping; it's the sign of a player very secure in his rhythmic sense, for you don't have to play the pulse for it to be there, ticking away, whether or not you state it explicitly. In this respect, Willie Trice's playing is like Buddy Moss's or Lemon Jefferson's, and in a couple of instances it shares an even less common trait with Lemon's treatment of time: a temporary suspension of pulse altogether, so that the musical idea is swimming freely until the time when he chooses to re-introduce the pulse. It takes confidence to be comfortable choosing such a vertiginous course, but when it works, it's like magic. Good for Lemon and good for Willie, and may the rest of us keep striving!