[10 February 2008]
Brooks Williams might play the folk circuit, but back in the more blues-friendly 1970s, his brand of old-timey acoustic folk-blues would have been categorized with artists like J.J. Cale and Tracy Nelson, both of whom he recalls. In his two decades of recording, his guitar technique has become flawless and he’s blossomed into a composer who can pen new tunes that sit comfortably alongside the standards he also records. Without the liner credits, for example, you’d never guess that the gorgeous instrumental duet with accordionist Karen Tweed, “Johnny’s Farewell”, was a Williams original and not traditional. The same goes for the happy-go-lucky jump blues “Everywhere”, which summons memories of when Willie Nelson tackled Irving Berlin. A solo guitar rendition of Blind Willie McTell’s “Statesboro Blues” is the rare cover of a warhorse that offers something new, likely because Williams hails from Statesboro, Ga. and brings some experience to the proceedings. His clean playing style is best exemplified on a rendition of the Doc Watson/traditional tune “Beaumont Rag”, which Williams transposes into a finger-picked tour-de-force with classical overtones. Most of the tunes get spare arrangements; when there are drums, they’re played unobtrusively by ever-dependable former Fairport Convention drummer Dave Mattacks. Not everything is transcendent on this self-produced CD, though. Williams’ vocals could be more expressive, especially on the up-tempo songs. How do we know? Because Williams slips in a hidden track, “Same Ol’ Me”, where he turns up the volume with a full band.