“Why are you drinkin’ like the night is young?” From the opening words of the opening song on Holly Williams’ latest album, The Highway, she provides ammunition to anyone arguing that good songwriting can draw from one’s genes. Less like her father and half-brother, who seem to reflect the hard living and partying aspect of their namesake, Holly hews closer to Grandpa Hank’s penchant for introspection in her songs.
Gone Away From Me, also featuring Jackson Browne on harmony, talks about loss of a grandfather she never knew, and from the viewpoint of visiting the cemetery versus some barroom or recording studio. Giving Up dives into the indescribable pain of trying to help someone with an addiction who just doesn’t want the help. The aforementioned opening cut, Drinkin‘, covers the broken marriage in an aching series of questions that are alway asked but never answered. The final song on the disc, Waiting On June, is really less a tune than the life story of her grandparents put to music. It features Gwyneth Paltrow on vocals and Holly’s husband Chris Coleman on vocals and guitars, and true to the best love stories it’s sweet and sad and chokes you up even though you know the ending.
The album isn’t just about loss, though. One of my favorites is the title track and it’s musings on how the road has an attraction, against all logic, that just keeps a musician traveling and out in front of the crowd. She also sings about trying to move to LA, but realizing her home is really Nashville in Without You, featuring yet another vocal guest, Jakob Dylan.
This is Ms. Williams third album, and it’s been a while since she released anything. She has a successful career as clothing boutique owner and I don’t even know if she would list business woman or musician first on her resume. But she’s a first class songwriter and if you love the raw emotion that some of the old, classic country songs manage to capture, you’ll thank yourself later if you pick up a copy of The Highway.
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