BROOKS WILLIAMS: BIOGRAPHY
Brooks Williams is a stunning guitarist who's blues-soaked, rhythmic, and soulful music defies categorization. After fifteen solo recordings and nearly two decades of touring the world, he is one of the most well-respected players on the circuit. His concerts are legendary: from coast-to-coast, country-to-country, one man, one guitar, rollin’ and tumblin’ like nobody’s business.
His musical vision spans continents and genres—blues, jazz, slide, fingerstyle—where funky chords, walking bass lines, and fiery riffs abound. Citing the influence of players as diverse as John Fahey, Ry Cooder, John Renbourne, Eric Clapton, and Joseph Spence, Dirty Linen magazine calls Brooks Williams one of "America's musical treasures." "At the root of every riff is the blues, it informs everything I play, write, and arrange,” says Williams.
Never has this been more apparent than on Williams’ latest recording, Blues And Ballads, which is a collection of country blues and traditional roots music that features Williams on acoustic, bottleneck slide and resonator guitars, mandolin, and vocals, and John Daniel, from the band Northern Lights, on acoustic bass. Among the songs featured on Blues And Ballads are classic blues standards from Big Bill Broonzy, Lightning Hopkins, Robert Johnson, Blind Boy Fuller, and Snooks Eaglin, a blues-jazz version of Ellington's Don’t Get Around Much Any More, and a few folk classics like Shady Grove and Watch The Stars. Williams says: "This is a recording I've wanted to make for a very long time. With it I am paying homage to inspiringly great musicians and a handful of songs that have had a huge impact on me as a player and a performer.”
Brooks Williams is from Statesboro, Georgia—the town made famous by Blind Willie McTell in his song Statesboro Blues—but musically came into his own in Boston, Massachusetts. While nearly everyone else was peddling vinyl and cassettes, Williams was one of the first independent artists to release a recording on compact disc. His 1990 direct-to-digital showcase of solo guitar and voice, North From Statesboro, turned heads.
That was just the tip of the iceberg, though. Subsequent albums, each different and daring in some way, received constant airplay on public and college radio and garnered him praise from the likes of All Things Considered, the BBC, The Washington Post, The Boston Globe, Acoustic Guitar, Performing Songwriter, and Guitar Player, including the ground-breaking Back To Mercy (1992), the best-selling Knife Edge (1996), the instrumental gem Little Lion (2000), and the solo guitar extravaganza Guitar Player (2005). He has, to date, released fifteen CDs, on labels like Green Linnet, Signature Sounds, and Solid Air.
Then there were the tours. Hundreds and hundreds of them: zig-zagging back and forth across the United States and Canada, plus regular trips overseas to England, Scotland, Ireland, and Wales. Brooks Williams is simply one of the most engaging performers on the scene today. Says Williams: "My favorite hours of the day are when I get to play guitar on-stage." Audiences can tell, his enthusiasm is obvious.
Over the years the breadth of Williams’ musical vision has broadened and deepened beyond solo performing and recording to include many facets:
One is in his collaborations with other musicians. For example, his critically acclaimed duo with violinist and singer Rani Arbo (which has fans lining up around the block to experience their eclectic take on swing, jazz, and traditional music), his Guitar Summit concerts of Blues and American Songbook explorations with fellow-guitarist Paul Asbell, or the Trans-Atlantic Song-swap concerts with English guitarist and songwriter Steve Tilston.
Another is as a respected educator at the University of Massachusetts Amherst (where he was nominated for a Distinguished Teaching Award in 2005), the Community Music School of Springfield, and Artspace of Greenfield (both in Massachusetts). In addition, he leads guitar workshops at the Newport Guitar Festival, The Swannanoa Gathering, Summer Acoustic Music Week, the Club Passim School of Music, the Connecticut Classical Guitar Society, the New England Young Writer's Conference at Middlebury College, and the University of Virginia, to name but a few. Williams is devoted to not only preserving the art of the acoustic guitar but to educating a future generation of players.
Yet another is on NPR, PBS-TV, documentary films, and various recordings by other artists where his instantly recognizable slide and acoustic guitars shimmer.
Lastly, one of his essays (about temporarily losing his beloved red guitar while on tour in Ireland) has been published in the book Between The Strings: The Secret Lives of Guitars, which also includes essays by B.B. King, Laurence Juber, Tuck Andress, Christopher Parkening, Doc Watson, and George Benson, among others.
Brooks Williams' music rocks like the blues, swings like jazz, and, as the Boston Globe describes, has “a captivating lyricism” and “a clear melodicism.” Audiences routinely react to his concerts by asking: “Where’d they hide the second guitarist?” Such is the mind-boggling artistry of this wonderful performer: no one does it like Brooks Williams! With millions of touring miles—and counting—under his belt, and fifteen albums—and counting—to his credit, Williams' exciting musical journey continues!