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Tuesday, January 29, 2013

ROUTES & BRANCHES
January 26, 2013
Scott Foley

Granddaughter of Hank Williams, daughter of Hank Williams Jr and half-sister to Hank III.  Is that a recipe for personal disaster, an immediate musical pedigree, or perhaps both?  Allmusic.com opens its piece on Holly Williams with the following:  "It was bound to happen someday -- somebody in Hank Williams' family tree was bound to produce a classy, tasteful album, and that somebody is Holly Williams."  While she's been on my radar since releasing The Ones We Never Knew in 2004 (and Here With Me five years later), the only song I aired on R&B was the seemingly autobiographical "Sometimes" - still a tremendously moving song that draws to a close with a nod to her heritage: "I wish I were an angel in 52' / In a blue Cadillac on the eve of the new year / And there I would have saved him, the man who sang the blues / But maybe he is listening right now / Hopefully he's listening right now". 

Holly Williams' third album, The Highway, will certainly get its share of play on R&B.  Produced by the producer du jour Charlie Peacock (Lone Bellow, Civil Wars), the album is full of such moments, candid revelations and disarming turns of phrase that both confirm and lift her beyond that inescapable pedigree.  I've always considered her half-brother Hank III to be somewhat of a tragic figure, talented enough here and there but so seemingly haunted by his name that he's spent his career alternately trying to embrace.  As a singer and a songwriter, there is so much more grace in Holly Williams' songs that it's not hard at all to simply enjoy them despite those long shadows.  Still, I can't help but make that connection for her with lyrics like, "They always made us kneel by Grandpa's grave / Mama started wailing asking God if he was saved / I never liked to see my Daddy cry / I guess I'll never know how Grandpa died" ... whether she's simply playing the role of storyteller or assuming the mantle of memoirist.  The Highway doesn't need to lean on guest stars like Jackson Browne, Jakob Dylan, Dierks Bentley or Gwyneth Paltrow (?!) to impress. 

This Episode also marks our introduction to the long rumored collaboration between Emmylou Harris & Rodney Crowell.  We also poke into a new artist (for me) in Chris King, whose 1983 reminds me somewhat of the working class alt.country of Chris Knight.  Finally, I finally realize how much I'm coming to appreciate the understated songwriting of Arizona's Max Gomez. 

Coming later this week:  Our very first Departures entry for 2013!

* Ryan Adams, "Oh My Sweet Carolina (live)"  Live After Deaf  (PaxAm, 12)
*  Pollies, "Song for Carter"  Where the Lies Begin  (This is Amer Music, 12)
*  Secret Country, "Seven Days a Week"  From the Barroom To the Bedroom  (Killing Horse, 13)
*  Kelly Willis & Bruce Robison, "Border Radio"  Cheater's Game  (Premium, 13)
*  Caitlin Rose, "I Was Cruel"  Stand-In  (ATO, 13)
*  Richard Thompson, "Where's Home"  Electric  (New West, 13)   D
*  Mike Cooley, "Cottonseed (live)"  Fool On Every Corner  (Self, 12)
*  Patti Fiasco, "Nobody's Girl"  Patti Fiasco  (Self, 11)
*  Emmylou Harris & Rodney Crowell, "Hanging Up My Heart"  Old Yellow Moon  (Nonesuch, 13)  D
*  Steeldrivers, "How Long Have I Been Your Fool"  Hammer Down  (Rounder, 13)
*  Gear Daddies, "Stupid Boy"  Billy's Live Bait  (Polydor, 90)
*  Beautiful Loser Society, "Desperate Promenade"  Desperate Promenade  (Self, 13)
*  Ted Russell Kamp, "Another Love Song"  Night Owl  (Poetry of the Moment, 12)
*  Neko Case, "Don't Forget Me"  iTunes Session  (Anti, 09)
*  Dolly Varden, "Saskatchewan to Chicago"  For a While  (Self, 13)
*  Jesse Dayton, "Silver Eagle Express"  Jesse Sings Kinky  (Stag, 12)
*  Rachel Brooke, "Every Night About This Time"  Killer's Dream  (Mal, 12)
*  Kris Kristofferson, "Bread For the Body"  Feeling Mortal  (KK, 13)   D
*  Tim Easton, "Special 20"  Before the Revolution  (New West, 13)   D
*  Gromet, "Corkah'"  Barren  (Self, 13)
^  Holly Williams, "Railroads"  Highway  (Georgiana, 13)   D
*  Chris King, "Twenty Eight"  1983  (Classic Horse, 13)   D
*  Max Gomez, "Rule the World"  Rule the World  (New West, 13)  
*  Trampled By Turtles, "Open All Night"  Long Distance Salvation  (Project Bread, 12)
*  Megan Redmond, "Old Soul Like Me"  Acoustic Sessions  (Aspen Leaf, 13)   D
*  Felice Brothers, "Honey In the Rock"  God Bless You Amigo  (Self, 12)
*  Roger Knox & Pine Valley Cosmonauts, "Stranger In My Country"  Stranger In My Land  (Bloodshot, 13)   D
*  Dale Watson, "Quick Quick Slow Slow"  El Rancho Azul  (Red House, 13)
*  Frontier Ruckus, "If the Sun Collapse"  Eternity of Dimming  (Quite Scientific, 13)   D
*  Gurf Morlix, "Whole Truth"   Cut 'n Shoot  (Blue Corn, 04)

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