DO WHAT YOU LOVE
Purveyors Of Fine Alt. Country With a Dash of Southern Rock and Essex Chutzpah!
I have the greatest admiration for musicians who follow their own path, and steadfastly refuse to get drawn into the murky world of 'covers bands'; which as we all know is generally more lucrative; but essentially Soul Destroying!
With musical CV's the envy of their peers in London Town, Jamie Williams and the Roots Collective are still ploughing their very own musical furrow, regardless of financial gain or literate praise; and the world is a better place for people like them.
Their 7th release opens with the twangtastic, Time Keeps Slipping Away; evoking many happy memories of the heyday of Country Rock, with Williams raspy, wheezy and 'lived in' voice alongside a combination of silvery and fizzy guitar licks taking us on a road trip around their beautiful country roads.
This leads directly into I'm a Stone, which may be a metaphor for why a love affair has failed; but with a superb Bluesy riff from Robbie McIntosh and Nick Garner's harmonica is straight from the Brian Jones guide-book; who's to say theirs not a lot more to this song than at first heard?
Because I know his history; I know that Williams is English and sounds it; but if you just stumbled on this record in a shop or received it as a gift; that voice suddenly becomes International and perhaps even American of the Southern State persuasion; and the players behind him sound as if they only come out of the swamp after dark.
The songs criss-cross Americana and Roots with ease; Lazy Day and Held in Your Glow are so 'Southern,' you fear they may be banned North of the Mason-Dixon line; and Straight Down The Middle somehow mixes Jug-Band Music with Country Rock and sounds just perfect to these ears.
At other times you feel these songs are a soundtrack to a road-trip around the Southern States, with the band picking up and appropriating something useful and fun from each stop, with Life on The Road being their map.
Red Hot and Raunchy could easily be a lost Little Feet track and Dreams Come True could easily have been found on any of Tom Petty's early albums too.
That said, The Roots Collective combine all of these varied influences to create their very own and distinctive 'style' and 'sound' which really comes through on If I Met My Hero, which features some stunning cello and guitar interplay; and I defy everyone to find a definitive set of links for the creation of album closer Dreams Can Come True.
Then of course there is the RMHQ Favourite Song, Losing Streak something of a 'Song for our Times'. An Acoustic Alt. Country soft-rocker that brings everything together and adds the sublime pedal-steel of BJ Cole esq. to give a sad, sad song more pathos than a sane man can possibly cope with ...... and I didn't; having to wipe away a salty tear more than once.
Bands in the UK were always 'early adopters' for what is now known universally as Alt. Country; most notably in the halcyon Pup Rock years; but there are still plenty of bands hauling the act around the motorways and back-roads, regaling and winning fans in bars, clubs and most especially festivals; and with that in mind Jamie Williams and The Roots Collective just may be some of the finest purveyors of this glorious genre; miss them at your peril.
AMERICAN BLUES SCENE
Jamie Williams and the Roots Collective's 'Do What You Love', their sixth album, album that cuts through the noise by going smaller and quieter.
My wife has us watching “Making the Cut,” a reboot of “Project Runway,” with contestants competing for money and fashion industry fame in a reality show format. These types of shows are like songs, with certain common phrases acting as the chorus. In the case of “Making the Cut,” the hook is “cut through the noise,” and it’s used as a short hand for designers needing to differentiate themselves in the marketplace. It’s an idea common across industries, and it’s usually interpreted as bombast. After all, one of the easiest ways to cut through noise is to just be louder or more shrill. Which is what impressed me about Jamie Williams and the Roots Collective‘s Do What You Love, their sixth album. It’s an album that cuts through the noise by going smaller and quieter.
Jamie Williams and the Roots Collective are a British band that completely nail the Americana sound, right down to Williams’ voice, which has a natural, compelling, casual quality. It’s not billowing, but there’s a strength and commitment behind it that lends it power. His band taps into a Creedence Clearwater Revival energy, with a similar kind of haunted sound. But the scale of the production is small, so you don’t feel like every instrument is coming at you; everything is in proportion. The end result is feeling like you’re listening in on an interesting conversation.
“I’m a Stone” in particular nails the Creedence guitar sound, supported by harmonica work from Nick Garner that jumps between rhythm and lead, giving the song depth without weighing it down. Special guest Robbie McIntosh, an accomplished session guitarist, lays down a beautiful slide line that comes out of nowhere, but serves as a nice reboot for the track. The groove is almost danceable and works well with Williams’ voice as something fun but not goofy.
“Held in Your Glow” is tremolo drenched, with a wonderfully slow groove. Together the two make you feel like you’re in a pool on an impossibly sunny summer afternoon, slowly rising to the water’s surface. It’s one of the album’s more produced tracks, with lots of sonic swells and effects, but there’s still plenty of aural white space that makes all of the other elements all the more noticeable.
“Losing Streak” is a sweet acoustic number, pedal steel from B.J. Cole giving it a country vibe and Williams tapping in to a Townes Van Zandt-esque vocal energy. Between Cole and Williams, the song is all gorgeous melodies. “Dreams Can Come True” is another strong track, almost the opposite of “Losing Streak,” with its horns, organ, and random snippets of dialogue. It’s an ambitious track but there’s something modest about it, mostly due to Williams’ vocal, which retains its simple, down-home sound, keeping the song from snowballing into a Vegas- style performance.
It takes a certain amount of confidence to keep an album light, not throwing in every lick or singing like you’re trying to win a reality show. Because given where we are now, for many the expectation is that every performance needs to be over-the-top enough to get people to call in and vote for you, or to sway a judge you’ve never heard of before to appreciate your music. But nuance is interesting. Restraint can make the listener want to hear more. And that’s exactly how Jamie Williams and the Roots Collective cut through the noise.