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Album review: Holly Williams' 'Here With Me'

June 15, 2009 |  4:05 pm
Holly_240_ Among Hank Williams' clan, celebrating family tradition is a family tradition. Hank Jr. often has, as does Bocephus' daughter, Holly Williams. On her second album, "Here With Me," the 28-year-old singer and songwriter extends the tradition of honest self-revelation she put forth convincingly in her excellent 2004 debut "The Ones We Never Knew," and this time she more openly explores the country music genes that are part of her estimable DNA.

Williams doesn't go in so much for her granddaddy's perfectly honed use of language, but she does share his penchant for disarming vulnerability. "Let Her Go," which she wrote with Marcus Hummon, could be about any father-daughter relationship, but given the family she comes from, there's no mistaking exactly who is the target of this one. In "Mama," she's crafted a moving thank-you note to a matriarch who resisted the post-divorce temptation to demonize her ex to curry favor with her children.

There are more shadows than light in the relationship songs, whether her own ("Alone") or some well-chosen contributions from others (Neil Young’s bittersweet farewell, "Birds," which closes the album). She does kick up her boot heels briefly in "A Love I Think Will Last," the jaunty two-step duet with the song's co-writer, Chris Janson, and the frisky "Three Days in Bed."
As she did on her debut album, she deftly name-checks her legendary grandfather, this time in "Without Jesus Here With Me," almost a play-by-play of the near-fatal 2006 car accident she was in with her sister, Hilary. 

The preacher tried to make me learn

So I memorized his favorite verse

But Hank's words they taught me everything

Thank God I saw the light for me

The light Williams saw specifically refers to a spiritual awakening, but it could as easily apply to the self-illumination that shines through in her music -- another Williams family tradition.

-- Randy Lewis

Holly Williams
"Here With Me"
(Mercury Nashville)
Three stars