Singer and guitarist Brooks Williams hails from Statesboro, Georgia, the town made famous by country-blues legend Blind Willie McTell. Williams’ backstory provides a bit of context as to why this Cambridge, England resident has a love for country blues — evident throughout his three decades of work — that comes so naturally.
“Ranked in the Top 100 Acoustic Guitarists, he’s a mean finger-picker and a stunning slide guitarist. Plus, ‘he has a beautiful voice,’ says Americana UK, ‘that you just melt into.’ Not one easy to pigeon-hole, Brooks’ music is the love-child of country-blues and soulful Americana.”
Williams has been playing live and releasing albums since 1990. To celebrate the 30th anniversary of the release of his first record, Williams recently recorded an album of 12 of his favorite songs from his back catalogue. Called Work My Claim, the recording features musicians John McCusker (Mark Knopfler), Christine Collister (Richard Thompson), and Aaron Catlow (Sheelanagig) in addition to Williams.
We’ll begin our tour with a soulful and bluesy version of You Don’t Know My Mind from Work My Claim. Williams has a fine guitar riff going on his Atkin guitar to underpin the vocals, and his fingerpicking comes to the forefront and is showcased beginning around the 1:35 mark of the video.
That strong guitar continues with the funky grove of Snake Oil, co-written with Boo Hewerdine. The guitar vibe fits perfectly with this song about what happens when the carnival comes, and then leaves, town (as in “all you got left is snake oil”). Also from Work My Claim is this lovely cover of Dave Alvin’s King of California with fiddler Aaron Catlow.
Williams 2018 album Lucky Star features the New Orleans-influenced No Easy Way Back. “I love those old Sun and Stax records,” says Williams in his notes to the official video, “and that’s the vibe I was aiming for in the studio. No isolation booths, no overdubs, no headphones, just musicians playing songs together in a way that used to be pretty common, but isn’t anymore. It makes for exciting music.”
Williams is a talented singer and guitarist who has a devoted following. To end this review with something completely different, check out this 2014 slide version of the traditional tune Sitting on Top of the World, played on an electric cigar box guitar!
More to come…
Image: Brooks Williams (photo by Ira Hantz via brookswilliams.com)