CAL WILLIAMS JR, Honeychild: ‘…an inconspiculously refined record that fully merits its title’

Translation of the review online @ www.rootstime.be, sectie ‘CD/DVD RECENSIES’ 

Honeychild‘ is the third album by South Australian singer and acoustic guitar player Cal Williams Jr., who quenches his artistic thirst with prewar Delta blues, as well as British guitar folk, that reached its creative peak in the sixties and seventies with masters like John Renbourn, Davey Graham, Martin Carthy and John Martyn. It’s a somewhat short CD with ten songs, making up for 38 minutes, but as usual this doesn’t matter at all if quality goes the opposite way. Cals rather higher pitched voice fits better with the folk style, as he doesn’t have the raucous voice that is associated with the early blues singers. But that’s of course not a criticism either, because Cal is a good singer.

Five originals, while the five covers include overly well known songs like ‘(Mama) Talk To Your Daughter‘ by J.B. Lenoir and ‘St James Infirmary‘, one of the very few blues songs in a minor key and moreover a real ‘traditional’ as there exist litterally hundreds of verses, dixit Hans Theessink, and this master of the (slide) blues guitarist ought to know. The CD opens with the beautiful ‘Blues Runs The Game‘ (by Jackson C. Frank), and this song immediately offers Cal Williams the opportunity to deliver excellent guitar playing, which he continues in ‘Ole 49er‘. By then it’s clear: this man knows his trade and masters the different guitars he takes in hand. That’s hardly surpirsing as we learned that he already played with the other South Australian maestro on the strings, Jeff Lang, and with Martin Simpson, who’s equally apt in playing the guitar. C.W. Stoneking, Robert Randolph, Ben Kweller, Billy Bragg, KT Tunstall also figure on the list of people with whom he played.

It was to be expected that there would be an instrumental on ‘Honeychild‘ (‘Geshe La‘), but Cal tastfully avoids overkill, proof that he’s about the music, not about virtuosity. A small number of musicians fill in the blanks behind the ‘front man’ in a functional manner. This gives pleasing results, especially in the self penned ‘Northern Line‘ (the violin of Emma Luker!) In this, the [for our taste!] strongest track of the album, but even more so in the other songs it’s is the plucked or bowed double bass that’s in part responsible for the warm sound of the record. Kory Horwood is the bass player and he also delivers stilish backing vocals. A brooding ‘Dark Was The Night‘ by Blind Willie Johnson closes ‘Honeychild‘ instrumentally, a fitting coda for an inconspiculously refined record that fully merits its title.

Antoine Légat (original piece in Dutch/Flemish December 14th, 2012; this translation December, 18th 2012)

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