Mention the blues and most folk think of that 12 bar moan of misery which arose from the cotton fields of the south and became louder and prouder as its practitioners moved to cities such as Chicago. It’s a rich and rewarding seam of music to follow but it’s not all doom and gloom and woke up this morning despair. Much of the music played back then was not an echo of the daily injustices rained down but a joyous celebration of life played in juke joints where drink and dancing were the order of the day. Georgia born singer and guitarist Brook Williams kind of sums this up on the opening song here which is called Bright Side Of The Blues, a jaunty number which recalls the sunnier side of Van Morrison in a toe tapping fashion with a fine loose-limbed approach. It’s a fine introduction to Lucky Star, an album recorded in Glasgow with local musicians, Kevin McGuire and Stuart Brown on bass and drums respectively while Newcastle’s Phil Richardson adds piano.
There’s a fine degree of levity to much of the album which was recorded pretty much live in the studio with Williams’ guitar playing nimble and quick fingered and he does utilise his excellent resonator skills on several of the songs. The slight Caribbean touch on Mama’s Song, the old time swing of Gambling Man and After You’ve Gone and the syncopated shuffle in Going To New Orleans recall the likes of Taj Mahal who was never afraid to be upbeat on his albums. Meanwhile there’s a fine nod to Sister Rosetta Tharpe on the skiffle like Rock Me which features harmonica from Paul Jones. However, the album is quite eclectic as Williams offers the lounge lizard croon of Always The Same and the shark-suited sheen of Here Comes The Blues which is a soulful as anything Robert Cray has recorded. Best of all is Williams’ railroad song, Jump That Train, which rumbles along fuelled by his resonator guitar. It’s a grand addition to the railroad canon as it huffs and puffs away and one can imagine The Blasters or Alejandro Escovedo amping it up. The blues affinity to gospel music is captured on Whatever It Takes which benefits from backing vocals from Rachel Lightbody and it’s well worth saying here that the backing vocals on several of the songs were provided by the great Rab Noakes.
Williams has an attractive voice and his take on the blues is not dissimilar to that of JJ Cale or the type of bands that Alexis Korner used to champion such as Rockin’ Jimmy and The Bothers of The Night. Buy the album and file it next to your Ry Cooder, Leon Redbone and Danny Adler albums.
The good news is that Brooks Williams plays in Glasgow on 9th September at The Doublet Bar courtesy of Sounds in The Suburbs. Tickets here