_thesmoothcat, Wino Willy - READY, SET

In late 2020, beat-maker/producer Charles Corpening ( Wino Willy ) took a gig mixing a live- stream for a mural dedication in New Orleans featuring a performance by _thesmoothcat ( Josh Henderson) & 9th Life. Corpening was so moved by their sound that he captured the raw audio on the spot and began flipping it as soon as he got home. The levity and joy in the streets that he heard in Josh’s music in contrast to the darkness of the times conjured feelings of his youth in Philadelphia and the cultural similarities across both cities. Shortly after, he reached out to Josh and the collaboration that led to Ready, Set was born. Concurrently, Corpening learned that he would be a father for the first time - an auspicious beginning for multiple new endeavors.

Josh gave Charles a CD that he played in the car constantly with his daughter in utero. As she grew, so did the music. Inspired by Josh’s plethora of influences and the soulful viscosity of organ and keyboard jams heard at night on WWOZ radio. Corpening approached his process and fatherhood with a fresh perspective, trading electronic drums for live ones and even composing some of the beats in the hospital during his daughter’s birth. Notwithstanding the wrath of life in the city, some of the equipment he used to make the sounds on the record were destroyed in Hurricane Ida, Thankfully much of the tracking was completed.

For Henderson, the collaboration has the excitement of that new car feeling, conveyed on the album’s first track Brand New, but as the title, Ready Set suggests these 10 tracks just begin to scratch the surface of what’s to come from _thesmoothcat and Wino Willy.

Josh felt a thread of familiarity in the beats on the record; harkening nostalgia from his early career, though Ready Set is the first time he has worked with a producer outside of his camp. He credits the alchemy of newness, nostalgia and a decade of lived experience flooding into the songs on Ready Set. What Do You Know laments the “janky dishonesty” and cycles of violence that swirl around an artist trying to survive and get paid. You Can’t Unfeel, co - written with Baton Rouge rapper WAKAI, delves deeper into the confusion of problematic infrastructure asking, Is it my fault or my environment? And resolves on the album’s second single, Hand Eye - a message to eat or get eaten. Henerson’s daily joy and lightness are equally heard up and down the album. 874 is an ode to a very dependable pair of Dickies pants. I Like, written with rapper Juju, expounds on the delight of travel, leaving the worries of the city behind.

All songs produced by Wino WIlly.
All lyrics written by _thesmoothcat with
Juu on I Like
WAKAI on You Can’t Unfeel What You See and Hand Eye
Jazz Bandito on Long Chapter
Mixed and Mastered by Bailey Wilder
Artwork by Ronni Bourgeois

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