Holly Williams may come from a well known country lineage but she’s made it clear in interviews that it’s not one she set out to follow. Instead she steered a course down the Americana route taking inspiration along the way from singer-songwriters such as Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen and Springsteen who may have seemed a long stride away from her family roots back then but even here there was a lot less than six degrees of separation, they have all cited her grandfather, Hank Williams, as an influence. One thing she does share with her grandfather, as proven on her latest release ‘The Highway‘, is an innate ability at delivering an emotional punch.
Despite the unoriginal sounding album title what lies within is far from expected. The album was meant to mark a fresh start, and to this extent Holly seems to have come up trumps. Self-released on husband/guitarist Chris Coleman’s label, Georgiana Records, there was no expense spared with Charlie Peacock on production duties (Civil Wars) and guests in the form Jackson Browne, Jakob Dylan, Dierks Bentley and Gwyneth Paltrow.
Just the mention of an all-star cast suggests a lot of polish but the production on this album is faultless. The songs are given room to breathe, everything feels more stripped back than before and the skills of the songwriter are brought to the fore..all of which were written or co-written by Holly.
Drinker weighs in as a heavy emotional opener preparing the listener for the heart-wrenching songs to come. This one caught me completely off-guard. A woman dealing with her husband’s alcoholism whilst trying to look after their kids. Verses are posed as questions to which she receives no reply. A lost soul she follows the path of the bottle eventually losing everything around her that she once held dear.
Gone Away from Me features Jackson Browne who, as if on cue, is announced by the gentle swelling of strings over acoustic guitar which combine to add that extra depth of feeling to the song.
Holly lost both her Grandparents on her mother’s side in recent years and this song along with Waiting on June was inspired by them and their strong commitment to each other. The latter which features Gwyneth Paltrow on chorus duties tells their story, sung in the first person as her grandfather. A love story from the age of ten to old age. For me this is the album highlight and is also our Song of the Day.
There is one part in the song where they reach old age, the extended guitar interlude between lines just overwhelms, it’s stunning.
I honestly can’t remember the last time I’ve heard an album that was such an emotional rollercoaster, just when you think you’re over one track she’ll hit you with another. Thankfully there are some upbeat offerings to aid emotional recovery such as Railroads which just rocks along and Without You offers some mid-tempo respite with the aid of Jakob Dylan. Of the upbeat moments ‘Til it Runs Dry, a duet featuring Dierks Bentley, is a clear gospel influenced foot-stomping winner!
It’s a great album which really defines Holly Williams more than anything she has released before. It contains some stunning songs and one which I’m sure will go down well with UK fans as she embarks on tour here this week (details below).
UK Tour Dates
23 – Kings Place, London,
24 – Glee Club Birmingham
25 – Ruby Lounge, Manchester
26 – St. Bonaventure’s, Bishopston
27 – Glastonbury Festival, Glastonbury
29 – The Glee Club, Nottingham
01 – Whelans, Dublin
02 – St Andrew’s In The Square, Glasgow
03 – The Sage, Gateshead
05 – Maverick Festival Easton,
Released on Georgiana Record, Out Now.
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