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Cal Williams Jr - All That I Learned From The Sea


10 tracks

I never judge an album or a book by its cover, but this one certainly matches up well. Cal Williams Jr is an acoustic folk and blues artist whose music style hearkens back to the folk movement of the 1960’s; the CD cover also has quite a retro look and feel to it, adding to its charm. Williams’ vocals reminded me at times of Alan “Blind Owl” Wilson from the early Canned Heat days. He hits high notes in a manner that brought back memories of Wilsons’ “Goin’ Up Country” and other great songs. Hailing from Australia and playing a lot in the UK, Williams has little exposure to US audiences. He is a three time winner of Songwriter of the Year in South Australia and has received many accolades in the UK and Australia, and it is quite apparent why he has when I listened to this CD.

Williams guitar work is impeccable. He fingers notes effortlessly and adds depth to his sound on the low end. He also sings with great conviction. He wrote 7 of the 10 songs here and they are quite good. “Coal Town” opens the set; he picks and bounces through this one and hauntingly sings about going down to Coal Town to find his love. It’s a great lead off song to set the tone for the rest of the CD. The vocals in “New York Central” even more so reminded me of Wilson than the first track. He picks away while singing in an almost haunting manner. I was hooked by the end of the second track.

“Northern Line” is a very folksy slower love song that evokes simpler places and times. I see myself back in the Student Union building at college or in a coffee shop in NYC listening to folk artists sing of their loves and lives. “The Sea” continues in that vein, but then “Geshe La” offers an interesting contrast. It reminds me a bit of the melodic lines the Doobie Brothers “Black Water”. This in an instrumental track and the music flows and gives the impressions more of the majesty of the sea with waves crashing ashore than the song title. Geshe La is a high level Buddhist monk position, requiring 20 years study and then 6 or 7 more years of particular study to attain. In either case, the song is an excellent one. “Pallet On The Floor” follows, a lighter and bouncier hill country styled track with spoons slapping to keep time.

“In Perfect Light” and “Far Side of You” are softer, more ethereal back to back songs. “Ghost of Banjo” features a very cool violin overlaid with Williams’s guitar in a pleasant and lilting Celtic-like instrumental. The violin continues into the final track, a cover of “Lay My Burden Down”. Williams is joined by harmonizing female backing vocals in a nice rendition of this traditional piece.

Kory Horwood plays double bass and sings, Manny Kechayas is on jazz kit, udu and Cajon, Anthony Pak Poy plays guitar, ukulele, and electric bass, Dee Trewartha is the fiddler and sings, and Emily Davis sings on this fine little CD. I can’t really call this traditional blues; this really is more of folk album, but it is well done and delivered with heart. I enjoyed the album as will folk music fans.

Reviewer  Steve Jones is secretary of the Crossroads Blues Society in Rockford. IL.

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