Hailing from Lyttleton, New Zealand, the son of a painter mother and industrial punk musician father, Williams was reared on an eclectic cocktail of early choral music, PJ Harvey, The Band, Gram Parsons and the traditional folk music of his Maori heritage. Dropping out of studying classical music at university, he briefly formed The Unfaithful Ways with a bunch of of fellow fallen choirboys and their science teacher, knocking out alt-country music in local bars and releasing four discs, before cutting three albums as a duo with fellow local songsmith Delaney Davidson.
Upping sticks for Melbourne in 2013, he embarked on a solo career that now bears first fruit with this eponymous stylistically diverse studio recorded debut, an album that ranges from the Ghost Riders In The Sky styled frenzied race through opener Hello Miss Lonesome (a recently featured Song of the Day) to stripped down and reflective quivering vocal closer Everyone’s Got Something To Say.
Although After All has a jaunty bounce that injects a country needle into the Beatles Rubber Soul, it’s slower numbers that dominate. A fingerpicked Lonely Side of Her, written for his co-vocalist and partner Aldous Harding (whose debut album was reviewed here), at times sounds like a cowboy campfire tune (assuming cowboys sang about women “talking shit and starting fights”) while, by contrast, he visits the noir side with the the fingerclicking Strange Things, violin and synth scraping like desert winds through the melody, and the equally overcast slow walking Dark Child with its resonant midsection electric guitar storms.
There’s times when you might detect a touch of Orbison, and that’s particularly true of the five minute I’m Lost Without You, a 60s orch-pop gem written by Teddy Randazzo and Billy Barberis that faithfully follows the 1965 Billy Fury version. It’s not the only cover here. Equally obscure is the acoustic strummed, violin accompanied Silent Passage, the haunting post-war trauma title track ballad from the solitary album by Canadian folkie Bob Carpenter which, featuring Emmylou Harris on harmonies, was recorded in 1974 but never saw light of day until a decade later . The remaining track on this all too short collection is also a cover, this time turning to traditional territory for an androgynous voiced account of the hard lived life death song When I Was A Young Girl, most famously covered by Nina Simone. Williams is touring Europe and the UK in April, on the evidence here he should be something special.
Review by: Mike Davies
Out Now via Dead Oceans
Order via Amazon
05 APR – Bodega Social Club, Nottingham
06 APR – The Louisiana, Bristol
07 APR – St Giles In The Fields, London
08 APR – The Hope and Ruin, Brighton
For details of all his full European tour dates head here:www.marlonwilliams.co.nz