Trapdoor Media (label)
18 May 2018 (released)
04 June 2018
Singer-songwriter is a label that encompasses a deluge of artists all trying to hit the world with their own unique voice. Well, in all honesty, there just aren't that many that have the wisdom, timbre, and soul to rise above the masses. The bottom 90% are dorm room strummers, desperately banging out G, C and D chords hoping to hang their whole act on a few flimsy metaphors and their “heartfelt” angst. Those who have mastered that style, expanding their verbal and musical lexicon enough to strike a genuine chord with their songs, fill up another 8-9%. It's only the cream of the crop who use sophisticated metaphor to tackle weighty, complex issues with the wisdom of many decades on this earth. Combine this with a penchant to incorporate many different musical genres and employ long, flowing, intricate passages and you've hit the best of what the genre can offer. Your Prine's, your Cash's, your Cave's, your Waits', all can ruminate on loves won and lost and the other obstacles of our existence with maturity, intelligence and biting insight.
Nashville vocalist and stringsman, David Williams' latest record Tipping My Hat to Leonard occupies that rarified air with beautifully unfolding yet raw guitar work and arresting imagery. The title track as you might guess pays homage to the master, Leonard Cohen. Williams liberally peppers the lyrics with Cohen song references in the same way Dylan did with Springsteen references in The Traveling Wilburys' 'Tweeter and the Monkey Man'. Although the song is dedicated to the baritone Montrealer, the lazy tempo-ed number has the drawl of a Tom Waits tune. It's as if a loungey New York piano bar had been transported to the banks of the Mississippi.
The album's first of several dalliances into gypsy folk 'Who Let that Django Jazz into the Room?' features a call and response duet with Ellie Brown in this lively, romantic ditty. Guitar, violin and mandolin trade off incendiary leads creating an intoxicating number that transports you to a European villa late at night. Songs like 'Guernica' unabashedly emulate the dark, haunting style of Cohen. This deeply affecting track hangs hard on minor chords and lumbering bowed standup bass. The song sticks out for its intensity nestled among the lighter Americana fare. 'Holy Earth' closes out the album with another beautiful duet with Williams channeling Nick Cave in his more bare and vulnerable moments with similar religious metaphors.
With Tipping My Hat to Leonard, David Williams honours the transcendent songwriting greats but does so while crafting a style all his own. The incredible musicianship is captured flawlessly by a very transparent recording which allows every bit of the subtlety to remain intact, string noise and all, it only adds to the authenticity. Williams has made an album that rises above the other 98% in his field, one of the only things that detracts from the power of the album is the artwork. It doesn't quite do justice to the strength of the work.