BROOKS WILLIAMS – Work My Claim (Red Guitar Blue Music RGBM – 2020)

Work My ClaimBrooks Williams releases Work My Claim in February. It’s an album which celebrates thirty years as a touring musician and 30 years since his first album – and he still plays over 200 shows a year. Work My Claim has twelve tracks from Williams’ back catalogue recorded with a mixture of Aaron Catlow, Christine Collister, Ralf Grottian, Jim Henry, John McCusker, and Phil Richardson.

If you know Williams’ music, then his choices for the album are: ‘Inland Sailor’, ‘King of California’, ‘Frank Delandry’, ‘Seven Sisters’, ‘You Don’t Know My Mind’, ‘Here Comes The Blues’, ‘Whatever It Takes’, ‘Georgia’, ‘Mercy Illinois’, ‘I Got It Bad’, ‘Jump That Train’ and ‘My Turn Now’. The album is more than a greatest hits or an unplugged, though. A couple of tracks have original extra verses; one of them is a differing tune – Williams tells us “I write two or three different melodies to the same set of lyrics. It makes the process longer but it helps me get inside the song….This version here is the original version. It’s more emphatic and maybe a little manic”. If ever there were words to tell how good and professional a songwriter/guitar player Williams is, then you have it in those first two sentences.

If Williams is unknown to you, Martin Simpson sums him up as, “He’s a lovely player, a lovely singer, and a great writer. Brooks Williams is the real thing.”

If you want to see why, have a listen to the video below for ‘Here Comes The Blues’ with Williams and Phil Richardson. It’s got a great melody, the vocal (Williams has the kind of voice that is just attractive to listen to), guitar and piano are nicely matched – and despite some rather nice touches the guitar work doesn’t draw attention to itself unless you’re looking for it, the kind of unfussy style that anything in life can only be when you’re properly on top of it.

Williams has written nine of the tracks, a mix of folk, Americana and blues – sometimes in the feel of the one song. The themes are about everyday humanity: a labourer missing the sea he used to work on, a great guitarist who just didn’t turn up to a gig one day and was never heard of again, a traditional blues arranged and expanded by Williams, a love song “Whatever it takes to be with you….I will do”, a conversation overheard in a diner about a man who took his own life and whose family were robbed while the funeral was on, a beautifully played train song, a conversation with a TT motorcyclist wondering if this will be his year. The covers are Duke Ellington’s ‘I Got It Bad’ and Dave Alvin’s ‘King Of California’.

Williams has a list of tour dates on his website: on his own, with Boo Hewerdine as State of the Union as well as with other artists. Given how many gigs he does, some time in the year he can’t be that far from anyone reading this in Britain – as well as playing in the USA, Austria and France; the video gives you a feel for his class, go and see for yourself.

Mike Wistow

Artist’s website:

‘Here Comes The Blues’ – live with Phil Richardson:

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