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Brooks Williams - Baby O! (Red Guitar Blue Music)

Star rating: 

Statesboro-born Brooks Williams releases his 17th album and brings with it a veritable feast of feel-good blues, utilising his trusty bottleneck and resonator guitar to great effect throughout. The album, mostly made up of self-penned songs with a nod to one or two country blues giants such as Son House on Grinning in Your Face and Mississippi John Hurt on Louis Collins, demonstrates some tightly arranged goodies, which brings out the very best in the guitarist's supporting cast; Jethro Tull's David Goodier on bass, Little Johnny England's PJ Wright on Dobro, pedal steel and slide guitar, Keith Warmington on harmonica and Helen Watson providing backing vocals.

BABY O! was recorded in Bristol here in the UK but sounds for all intents and purposes as if it was recorded in one of the juke joints along the Mississippi. With the guitarist's heavily gaffer-taped stomp box in full flight, Walk You Off My Mind offers some sweaty blues whilst Last Chance Love is probably more 'Hank' than 'Big Joe' Williams. With a fine performance of Muddy Waters' Sugar Sweet, written by Chief Records founder Mel London, Williams and Co provide an infectiously rhythmic groove that almost beckons the most left-footed of us onto the dance floor.  

Testament to his informed guitar playing, Williams was recently listed in the top 100 acoustic guitarists, a list that included the likes of Doc Watson, Leo Kottke and Chet Atkins, yet you never get the sense that Brooks is over-milking it technically. The emphasis is on the quality rather than the quantity of notes, although it has to be said the title cut demonstrates some intuitive sparring between Williams and Wright. 

As the mother of all gospel songs, Williams' instrumental version of Amazing Grace comes over a little more like Robert Johnson's Come on in My Kitchen with all its back porch intensity. The funky Moon On Down is reminiscent of Last Record Album-era Little Feat and makes me wonder why Williams wasn't invited to the post Lowell George party?

Lyrically, the album provides some good story telling, especially on the opening song Frank Delandry, which addresses the legendary and quite obscure New Orleans guitarist that most locals of the time claimed to be the best. Unfortunately we'll never know as it was well before someone had the good sense to invent the black platter with the little hole. Closing the album is Duke Ellington's late night crooner I Got It Bad (And That Ain't Good), with a soulful vocal performance from Williams and solo guitar accompaniment that makes you want to have been around in the studio at the time.      

Allan Wilkinson
Northern Sky