Link to Living Tradition Homepage





NICHOLAS EDWARD WILLIAMS - Folk Songs For Old Timesí Sake†

NICHOLAS EDWARD WILLIAMS - Folk Songs For Old Timesí Sake†
EarthTone Records 3030†

Nicholas Edward Williams originally hails from Seattle but had a somewhat nomadic childhood, constantly moving throughout the US. He toured as a professional singer/songwriter for 12 years, eventually pausing from touring and diving in-depth to school himself in American musical history and fingerpicking techniques under the mentorship of Joan Crane. On the back of this he now presents the podcast, American Songcatcher, which takes a look at the history of five songs per episode followed by his own take on each song. His mission is to preserve the legacy and bring the music to a new generation of listeners.

So, this recording is a set of songs from the diverse American tradition - traditional ballads, early country, piedmont blues, old-time and ragtime - each of which Nicholas has taken and very much made his own. Most of the songs would be pretty well known – Shake Sugaree (from the singing of Elizabeth Cotten), I Wish I Was A Mole, Midnight Special, Barbry Allen – the list goes on. All sound familiar as they are presented in the right context, but Nicholas' voice and guitar breathe new life into the old classics.

He has a gentle, effortless vocal quality, sounding both modern but authentically traditional at the same time, and his guitar picking is very tasty - effective and wholly appropriate to each song. The use of relatively sparse arrangements (subtle clarinet, bass, fiddle, banjo, jug), and Nicholas' easy delivery allows the spirit of the songs to shine through.

Perhaps it's a bit ironic, or maybe just a sign of the times, when an album of American roots music is only available on vinyl and digital platforms! The vinyl edition has comprehensive liner notes on the history of all the songs, however, this is obviously not available on the digital version, which is a pity.

14 tracks in all, a great listen and gentle on the ear – highly recommended.

Jim Byrne


This review appeared in Issue 142 of The Living Tradition magazine