BROOKS WILLIAMS & AARON CATLOW – Greens & Blues (Red Guitar Blue Music RGBM 2401)

Greens & BluesI’m pretty sure that it’s impossible to keep Brooks Williams out of a studio much less separate him from his guitar. An inveterate collaborator, for Greens & Blues he renews his partnership with Aaron Catlow – this is their third album together. It’s a collection of songs old, new and borrowed and performed straightforwardly on guitar, fiddle and voices with Jon Short joining on double bass. That said, there’s a sophistication about it that I might ascribe to Josh Clark’s mixing as much as to the skill of the musicians.

The opening track is ‘Rock Me’, a gospely blues written by Thomas ‘Son’ Dooney, not the most familiar name in the genre. It sets the tone for much of the record, gently rocking with Catlow’s fiddle soaring and swooping over the song. It’s followed by the first of three Williams/Catlow originals, ‘Anniesland’, a nostalgic piece, counterpointed by Gillian Welch’s ‘Red Clay Halo’ which is rather closer to reality. Catlow takes a whistling solo.

Sierrra Ferrell’s ‘Bells Of Every Chapel’ is a song of unrequited love and then we’re back to agriculture with ‘Dooley’s Farm’ where he grows a very special crop – ‘Going To Pot’, which follows, maybe provides a clue. The second original, ‘Wild, Wild, Wild’, may derive from that but I’m not one to judge.

Rab Noakes (another Williams collaborator) wrote ‘Little Way Up’, which seems prophetic in view of his demise two years ago. “I’m a little way up from dying, a long way down from well” is the substance of the final verse. Rab and Brooks recorded the song informally just before Rab’s death and you can find their version on line but otherwise it remained unreleased until now. ‘Jump That Train’ is a train blues and we had to have one sooner or later. It’s a very clever arrangement with everyone having fun and I’m sure Brooks and Aaron won’t mind me pointing out how many floaters they have managed to work into it.

The final track provides the album’s title. ‘Sweet Greens And Blues’ was written by Shirley Collins, Ian Kearney and John Marshall and released on Shirley’s Heart’s Ease album. This is a marked contrast to the rest of the album with lyrical guitar by Brooks and poignant fiddle from Catlow underpinned by Short’s bass, an arrangement which is gentler than Shirley’s. Brooks has made a slight alteration to the words that I’m not entirely sure about; does it alter the meaning of that section of the song or is just another way of saying the same thing?

Like almost everything Brooks turns his hand to, Greens & Blues is an album to put on the player and just kick back. This one is mostly just for fun.

Dai Jeffries

Artists’ website:

‘Anniesland’ – live: