Album Review | Self Release | Review by Marc Higgins
Brooks Williams, singer, songwriter, American born but long term UK resident is celebrating 3o years as a touring musician with Work My Claim, atypically Journeyman troubadour titled set. Building his reputation ‘one fan at a time’ gigging enthusiastically and releasing pretty much an album year, Work My Claim is a reflection back on nuggets already mined with twelve revisited favourites from his back catalogue.
Inspired by a conversation with a haunted former fisherman on a train to Keighley in Yorkshire, “Inland Sailor” is a jaunty piece of folk blues, Aaron Catlow’s and John McCusker’s fiddles and Jim Henry’s mandolin capture the feel of the sea perfectly, while Brooks’ warm conversational tones tell the tale of the taunted sailor. Williams’ version of “King Of California” doesn’t have the bite of Dave Alvin’s original, but it does have a well-travelled reflective quality, with Brooks inhabiting the words well. Again the flourishes of fiddle, played by McCusker, echoed beautifully by whistle add a sparkle and grace. “Frank Delandry”, a homage to an all but forgotten early 20th century New Orleans guitarist, is perfectly delivered with a fine vocal, Phil Richardson’s piano gives a Van Morrison Celtic Soul to this favourite piece of folk story telling. “Seven Sisters” is another delight, an uplifting song of return and rebirth, with Williams’ warm worn blues voice contrasting the Vaughan Williams lilt of the twin fiddles like bird song behind him. “You Don’t Know My Mind” is a traditional blues song, Brooks vocal and spot on, with the mandolin, harmonica and guitar arrangement adding a folky folk blues twist. “Here Comes The Blues” is an own composition with a great pulse beat from Brooks’ guitar and Phil Richardson’s piano. A soulful Christine Collister lifts proceeding heavenwards on the chorus. “Whatever It Takes” is another warm blues, built around a classic folk blues riff, with fine chorus accompaniment from the unmistakable Christine Collister. It is to Brooks’ credit that he gives Phil a little room to stretch out on the piano. “Georgia” is a Leon Redbone like jazzy warm homage to the US State, as Brooks waits to travel to his childhood home. “Mercy Illinois” is another American themed song, an overheard conversation in an Illinois diner becomes a folk blues classic tale of misadventure. “I Got It Bad ( And That Ain’t Good ) is a blues take on the Duke Ellington song, with some tasteful notes and flourishes on the guitar and room for Brooks’ vocal to lean back and testify on this understated album highlight. “Jump That Train” is a well-worn riding the rails song, Brooks’ guitar in classic style is the train and he and Christine deliver passionate vocals. “My Turn Now” with some fine slide guitar and burning vocals, is a triumphant anthem for those who have mined their claims and paid their dues. On the strength of this album, twenty ninth at least, there is plenty of evidence that this is very much the case.
Choice Track: Frank Delandry (NSV 499)