Free

Williamson Branch

Pinecastle Records, 2018

http://williamsonbranch.com

REVIEW BY: Curtis Jones

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 09/09/2018

Williamson Branch is another family group that has become prevalent in the bluegrass music scene. This family, consisting of a mother, father, and three daughters ranging from 19 down to nine, presents a tight family harmony on their vocals. But on Free, they get a huge boost on their instrumentalism from veteran bluegrassers Scott Vestal on banjo, Adam Steffey on mandolin, and dobro virtuoso Rob Ickes.  nbtc__dv_250

Highlights of the album include “Old Man Hoback’s Farm,” a nostalgic lament about farms that are sold off to create housing subdivisions in rural areas.  A mix of memories and social commentary make this a potent song.  The gospel track “I’m Gonna Move” is a classic from the Isaacs Family, but the take by Williamson Branch takes a more bluesey approach featuring the 16 year old Kadence Williamson, who shows the most promise in the group as a vocalist.  “More Than Ever,” an original written by Kevin Williamson and sung by him and his wife Debbie, is a great “old age” love song about how love grown stronger as time goes on. The Hank Williams classic “Hey Good Lookin’” wins cuteness points as nine year old Caroline takes the lead on the vocals. Although you can hear the auto-tune clamp down a few times to keep the track in line, the song is fun.

After seeing some of Williamson Branch’s performances on YouTube (which always include the girls doing a demonstration of traditional Appalachian clogging – kudos for keeping pastimes alive), I was excited to see what the group’s first Pinecastle release would give us. But this reviewer finds their live performances more engaging. For one, they all play instruments, which is not evident on this release due to the use of so many star musicians as backing support.  Kadence plays bass for the group, and in a break from the usual upright acoustic bass seen in most bluegrass groups, or even the electric bass played in some more progressive groups, she uses a bass ukulele! It’s an interesting innovation. The vocals don’t seem to have as much life on this album, making it seem as though the group is either playing it safe or that the vocal ranges are limited. Perhaps the next release will see the group open up a bit more.

Rating: C+

User Rating: Not Yet Rated


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