Throughout 2020 Brooks Williams is celebrating 30-years of touring and recording with back-to-back tours and the release of a new album. And what a year it is turning out to be!
For his 30th anniversary, Brooks has recorded an album of favorites from his back catalogue, re-imagined and re-recorded. Work My Claim shows off the full range of his voice, guitar styles and musical influences. The album features contributions by some of his closest musician friends including John McCusker (Mark Knopfler, McCusker-McGoldrick-Doyle, Heidi Talbot, Phil Cunningham-Ally Bain); Christine Collister (Richard Thompson, Daphne’s Flight); Jim Henry (Eliza Gilkyson, Tracy Grammer, The Boxcar Lillies); Aaron Catlow (Yola Carter, Sheelanagig, Hawes & Catlow), Ralf Grottian and Phil Richardson (Claypath).
Work My Claim illustrates why some of the most respected names on the acoustic music scene hold him in such high regard. Long-time friend and personal hero Martin Simpson has called him “a great writer - the real thing.”
Brooks may now call the UK home, but his music and manner are firmly rooted in his Statesboro, Georgia, birthplace. On leaving Georgia at 19, he moved to Boston, ostensibly to attend Berklee School of Music, which never then happened. Instead he cut his teeth performing in the coffee houses and bars around Boston. Soon, his reputation developed to the extent that he was appearing on stage alongside the likes of Nanci Griffith, Chris Smither, Leo Kottke, Shawn Colvin, and Taj Mahal.
A guitarists’ guitarist, Brooks’ wide smile and gentle grace immediately puts his audience at ease. He has a highly sophisticated, versatile, fingerstyle expertise, and he has a mean bottleneck slide technique too. The groove he sets up on his battered Atkin J-43 is second-to-none in acoustic music. After watching or listening to Brooks it becomes immediately apparent why he’s such a favourite, and has been ranked as one of the Top 100 Acoustic Guitarist's. His innate musicality and skill shines through everything he does.
As if that weren't enough, AmericanaUK says, “He has a beautiful voice that you just melt into.” That voice earned Brooks a nomination for "Best Male Vocalist" by Spiral Earth.
He’s a great songwriter and has an impeccable ear for a good cover. "Williams’ original songs are typically sophisticated musically, and yet sound immediately familiar – a sign of a skilled songwriter”, writes Down At The Crossroads. His massive repertoire spans classic roots and blues. Check out his version of Dave Alvin’s “King Of California” and follow it with Williams’ instant classic, “Gambling Man.” Meanwhile, "Whatever It Takes" is a jump blues with a classic, hook-laden feel and lyric.
Brooks Williams says he developed his career in classic ‘one fan at a time’ manner by gigging enthusiastically and loving every moment. He still does, touring at a dizzying pace and performing more than 200 shows a year.
He is “at the top of his game,” says Blues In Britain, adding: “It is pure talent, hard work and relentless touring which has brought him to the pinnacle of his career.”
Brooks has pretty much released an album a year over the course of 30-years on a variety of labels including Green Linnet, Silo, Reveal Records and Signature Sounds. His first album, released in 1990, received a glowing review from The Washington Post which inspired National Public Radio to give him some serious attention. That interview was broadcast coast-to-coast across the USA, and that’s where it all began.
From the beginning, Williams has toured in ever-widening circles across the USA and up into Canada, with appearances at The Birchmere in Greater Washington, DC, Freight and Salvage in Berkeley, CA, Newport Folk Festival, Winnipeg Folk Festival, and the Philadelphia Folk Festival. Later, his tour dates also included festivals in the UK like Cropredy, Shrewsbury and Glastonbury, and Blues au Chateau in France, The Jazz Club in Vienna and The Blue Room Sessions in The Netherlands.
Brooks regularly performs and records with Boo Hewerdine as the duo, State of the Union, who will also do a couple of short tours in 2020. They’ve begun their fourth album, to be released in 2021. Throughout 2020 Brooks will also be working with Hans Theessink, Rab Noakes, Jim Henry, Sloan Wainwright, Aaron Catlow and Phil Richardson.
His music has featured on the BBC (UK), RTE (Ireland), CBC (Canada), NPR (USA) and Sirius XM (USA), and he’s charted on the FOLKDJ chart, EuroAmericana chart and Blues Lists around the world. WUMB-FM in Boston (USA) voted him one of their Top 100 Artists.
“It might have been a lucky star which brought Brooks Williams to UK shores, but it is pure talent, hard work and relentless touring which has brought him to the pinnacle of his career.”
— Dave Scott, Blues Bytes