Holly Williams

Hailing from one of the most famous lineages in American music would surely create challenges for most artists to create their own identity, but not for singer-songwriter Holly Williams. The granddaughter/daughter of Hank Williams, Sr. & Hank Williams, Jr. respectfully, makes her independence evident on her third studio album – The Highway – released on her own imprint, Georgiana Records, earlier this year.

Co-produced by Williams and Charlie Peacock (The Civil Wars), The Highway contains 11 original tracks written or co-written by Williams and features guest vocals from Jackson Browne (“Gone Away From Me”), Jakob Dylan (“Without You”), Dierks Bentley (“’Til It Runs Dry”) and Academy Award winner Gwyneth Paltrow (“Waiting On June”).

Raised in Nashville, Tennessee, Williams embraced music by playing songs on the guitar and writing songs as a teenager. Soon after, she started booking herself in nightclubs and hit the road driving her mother’s suburban across the country. In 2004, her debut album, The Ones We Never Knew, was released and she soon expanded her touring around the world opening for Keith Urban, John Hiatt, and John Prine.

A near-fatal car accident with her sister Hilary two years later left the emerging songstress unsure if she would be able to play the guitar, but she was able to overcome her injuries and began playing and writing songs. In 2009 she released her follow up album, Here With Me. People Magazine declared the album, “One of the Top 10 albums of the year”, and Billboard said it was “...one of the best singer/songwriter albums to come out of Nashville”. During this same time she married fellow musician Chris Coleman, and launched a high-end women’s boutique in Nashville called H Audrey.

Reflecting back on her life, Williams once again became inspired to write and record another album. The Highway, she says, is her coming of age record. “These songs really brought a focus into my life personally. I turned 30, I got married, my grandparents passed away, I opened a clothing store, my husband tours the world...there’s a lot to keep up with,” says Williams. “But the highway came calling and I suddenly had this serious longing for the road, storytelling, and sharing the life I live.”

Williams collaborated with songwriters Lori McKenna (“Without You”), Cary Barlowe (“’Til It Runs Dry”), Sarah Buxton (“A Good Man”) and even penned 3 of the albums tracks with her husband Chris.

Looking ahead to 2014, she brings the album’s title to life by joining one of her favorite artists, Jason Isbell, on tour and later continuing to trek the world on her own. Not bound by genres, she will also release “The Highway” as a single & music video to her fans around the world.

New American Farmers

New American Farmers
The Farmacology Sessions

Paul Knowles and Nicole Storto aren’t young, but the songs they write and sing are timeless, stories drawn from the heart and soul of ordinary, hard working folks. “We’re late bloomers who are more focused on the music, the mood and the quality of the songs and vocals, than image,” Knowles says. “We’re more concerned about community and survival than the health of our egos. We may be older and producing albums without a glory-filled track record, but we find that there are still those that enjoy our music for what it is.”

The duo has been making genre bending music that spans the spectrum of cosmic country, folk, bluegrass and Americana since they began performing as Mars, Arizona in the late 90s. The Farmacology Sessions, their second record as New American Farmers, is a little bit more folk/rock than previous outings, opening up new vocal and musical territory for the duo to explore. “There are more late 60s, early 70s influences,” Knowles says. “It stretches out more, takes some chances, and we had a blast doing it.”

The intertwining harmonies and sharp songwriting that mark the work Knowles and Storto are in evidence here, a set finely balanced between original material and unexpected covers. “We hadn’t planned on doing a record in 2014,” Knowles says, “but the songs started flowing. We then had the opportunity for some time in a great studio, so we started recording with Kevin T. White (bass player for Chuck Prophet’s Mission Express), and drummer Tony Sales.” The sessions at Opus Sound, and the band’s own Hilltop Studios, were marked by a burst of creative energy that comes across on every track.

Bay Area heavy Chuck Prophet joined in on guitar to contribute his trademark licks to “Aiming for The Daylight” and “Breathe In, Breathe Out.” Prophet’s big chiming guitar heightens the upbeat tone of “Daylight,” goosed along by Sales’ propulsive drumming and jubilant vocals from Storto and Knowles. Prophet’s Fender VI adds its trademark expansive sound to “Breathe In, Breathe Out” a pep talk for people dealing with life’s everyday tribulations, as well as with musicians and recording artists dealing with the loss of income from their efforts. The lyric - “There’s a bastard on every corner, and he wants to shake you down. He says he loves your music, and he’ll get it played around. A lot of people listened, but there’s nothing on your plate. You know it’s gonna’ take a long time to mitigate” - is a direct nudge across the bow of the current streaming music model.

Knowles met Alarm drummer Nigel Phillips when he was in a band that opened for The Alarm in the 80s. When they recently reconnected, they started playing together; Phillips sits on in the band’s cover of The Alarm’s “Rain In The Summertime.” The Farmers bring an extra measure of passion and grit to their arrangement, with Phillips adding his intense fills to heighten the song’s power. “Down At The Pharmacy” acknowledges the greed of big Pharma, with a tune that suggests Lennon and McCartney backed by a pedal steel drenched country band. The Monkees’ “Door Into Summer” gets a psychedelic country makeover. The vocal delivery of Knowles and Storto accentuate the anger and hopelessness of the lyric, proving that The Monkees had more soul than people gave them credit for.

The nine tracks on The Farmacology Sessions bristle with the fervor and sparkling musicianship that has made the New American Farmers one of the country’s top Americana outfits. “We’re doing this for ourselves,” Knowles says. “We’re about the songs, and planting them wherever we can. Maybe they’ll grow, maybe they won’t, but we’re not going to throw in a bunch of trendy additives to convince you that what we do has value. If you want to drop in and soak up the vibe, you’re more than welcome.

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Holly Williams with New American Farmers

Tuesday, May 21 · 8:00 PM at Sweetwater Music Hall