Valley favorite Brooks Williams returns to the Iron Horse Music Hall in Northampton
Even when Brooks Williams called the Valley home, it could be a while between his local gigs, given a busy touring schedule that regularly saw him crisscross the United States and playing in the British Isles. But you could still usually catch him a couple times a year at Northampton’s Iron Horse Music Hall, at the city’s First Night celebration or a local music festival.
But ever since he actually moved to Great Britain about three-and-a-half years ago, Williams’ visits to the area have become rare, indeed. All the more reason to go the Iron Horse next Wednesday, when the acoustic guitar wizard and former Northampton and Shutesbury resident plays his first gig in these parts since early 2012.
Williams, whose show begins at 7 p.m., will debut songs from a new album, “New Everything,” his latest CD in a prolific recording career that stretches back to the early 1990s.
In a Gazette interview last year, Williams said his move to the U.K. coincided with a musical change in his career that saw him delve deeply into Americana and roots music, from blues to jazz to ragtime. It’s music his European audiences really enjoy, he said, “and their valuing it makes me value it more.”
On his new record, he offers a wealth of uptempo tunes in that mode, originals as well as his interpretations of classic songs like Doc Watson’s fingerpicking standard “Deep River Blues.” There’s also a version of Dave Alvin’s 1994 hit “King of California,” in which Williams reinvents the folky tune with jangly acoustic riffs.
In a recent email to the Gazette, Williams said his new songs “walk the line between Americana and blue roots” and also reflect the way he’s been influenced by the British roots musicians he’s worked with over the last few years. Several of them join him on the CD, he says, and their love of American roots music “somehow brought it out of me more.”
Another big part of Williams’ move to Britain — he lives in Cambridge — has been his collaboration with Boo Hewerdine, a singer-songwriter who led the cult band The Bible in the 1980s. The duo, known as State of the Union, has toured extensively in the U.K and Ireland in the past two years and has now recorded two albums together, including the more recent “Snake Oil.”
Williams has piled up the accolades over the years, especially for his guitar playing — he was voted one of the best 100 acoustic guitarists in a poll in Acoustic Guitar magazine several years ago — and the initial reviews for his “New Everything” have commended his overall musical craftsmanship. Maverick Magazine, a country and acoustic music journal in Britain, calls the new CD “surely Brooks’ most accomplished solo collection yet.”
Tickets for Brooks Williams’ Oct. 30 show are can be purchased at www.iheg.com.