Friday, January 27, 2017

Tim Williams So Low

Tim Williams
So Low
Lowden Proud Records Ltd

According to his website, "Tim Williams is a blues-based singer / songwriter / multi - instrumentalist. He is a 40 year veteran of the 'Roots' music scene in North America, roots which stretch back to the coffee-house scene of his native California in the mid 60's." Living in Canada since 1970, he has toured throughout the world and was the 2014 International Blues Challenge winner in the solo/duo category. While he performs (and has recorded) a wide range of music, his new recording So Low (Lowden Proud Records Ltd) is a marvelous solo recording (the album title is a play on words on solo) that indicates the talent that won the International Blues Challenge and shows his versatility as he plays a 19th Century Marquette guitar, a Gretsch resonator, a Stella mandolin and a Harmony Sovereign 12-string on various selections.

Listening to his strutting rendition of the opening selection, Mose Allison's "If You Live," one immediately is drawn to his clean, emphatic picking and his grainy, appealing singing and followed by his adept finger picking on the bouncy "More Peppers In Your Chili." One can detect a lot of possible sources to Williams playing including Blind Boy Fuller, Big Bill Broonzy, Charlie McCoy, Tampa Red, Lightnin' Hopkins and Lonnie Johnson. He obviously has listened to a lot of music and adapted elements of these in his own playing which I might liken most to Broonzy, although on Broonzy's "My Big Money," his mandolin accompaniment brings McCoy to mind on a song that employs the same melody as "Sitting on Top of the World." His slide playing on the resonator on "Anywhere c/o The Blues," is a cross between Robert Johnson and the Black Ace as he incorporates a number of blues lines in this nicely paced performance.

Other performances are equally entertaining. "Pistol Snapper" is his rendition of a Blind Boy Fuller and the mix of his backing and natural vocal is a delight followed by a wistful rendition of Tampa Red's "Witching Hour Blues," matching his slide playing with a vocal on another fine performance. "Grizzly Bear," adapted by Geoff Muldaur and others five decades ago, was a take on Jim Jackson's "This Morning She Was Gone." On this, Williams plays some lively 12-string while singing about his gal going to Frisco to dance the Grizzly Bear there. Johnny Cash's "Big River" is transformed into a driving slide blues. After the loping, and pensive, "Midnight after Midnight," inspired by some Lonnie Johnson licks, the recording closes with a tribute to Lightnin' Hopkins entitled "Lightnin'," where Williams suggests the music of Hopkins and sings about Lightnin' playing a juke joint on a Saturday night with cousin Cleveland on a rub-board.

Tim Williams' So Low impresses with his wide ears, his terrific playing and his unforced singing which results in an acoustic blues album of great appeal.

I received my review copy from a publicist. This review originally appeared in the March-April 2016 Jazz & Blues Report (Issue 365). Here he performs Big River.

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