The Ones We Never Knew
First Appeared in The Music Box, November 2004, Volume 11, #11
Written by John Metzger
It isn’t easy to succeed within the overly crowded realm of singers and songwriters, and it’s even harder when one faces the incredible scrutiny that undoubtedly will surround Holly Williams when she waltzes onto the national stage with the release of her debut The Ones We Never Knew. True, given the legacy of her family — her grandfather was Hank Williams, one of the most important figures in the history of American music — she won’t have to clamor much for attention, automatically obtaining a spot in line ahead of her competition simply on the basis of her name. On the other hand, the pressure fueled by the inevitable onslaught of comparisons is enormous. Fortunately, Williams was smart enough to steer clear of straight-ahead country fare, and instead, she flits around its edges while mining the more adult contemporary facets of folk-rock. Granted, this is hardly an inventive blueprint — many who have struggled to gain a footing in Nashville have followed a similar route — but the power of her performance and the personal sentiments tucked inside her lyrics allow the collection to prevail despite the still developing aspects of her stylistic approach.
Indeed, many of the tracks on The Ones We Never Knew deal with subjects that obviously have weighed quite heavily upon Williams throughout her young life, such as the notion of saving men from their own weaknesses as well as her inability to commit to a relationship. That these issues stem from the baggage carried around by her family for decades should be no surprise, and on the gently rolling folk-pop gem Sometimes that opens the album, she cuts to the chase by singing about rescuing her grandfather from his descent into drugs and drink — a theme that continues to radiate both implicitly and explicitly throughout the remainder of the set. There are moments when Williams sometimes falters musically, but even then, the emotional honesty conveyed by her big voice masterfully straddles the line between strength and vulnerability while keeping the lesser material from falling flat. Better still, when the arrangements turn more atmospheric and fragile — as on Take Me Down and Cheap Parades — her songs become downright mesmerizing. Whether singing to a disconnected lover or a distant relation, Williams analyzes her own psyche with greater clarity than perhaps even she realizes, evoking images of the early days of Lucinda Williams’ career and making this a rather promising debut. ˝
The Ones We Never Knew is available from Barnes & Noble.
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1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 2004 The Music Box