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Album Review

Warner Williams is a consummate Piedmont bluesman — and more. Think of him as a songster, much the way bluesmen in the '20s and '30s were songsters, drawing from all manner of sources for their music, not just blues. With a deceptively easy guitar style, Williams is every bit at home covering Bob Wills' "Bring It on Down to My House" or the standard "Honeysuckle Rose" as he is on Big Bill Broonzy's "I Feel Good." This live disc, recorded at Wolf Trap (actually taken from shows in 1993 and 1995), shows just how good this largely unknown veteran is. The duo of Williams and accompanist Jay Summerour (on harmonica, backing vocals, and some excellent whistling) is a latter-day Sonny Terry & Brownie McGhee. Williams is especially strong on the rhythms of the songs, though never overstating them, while still offering plenty of ornaments to fill out the sound, as he does on "I'm Confessing That I Love You," where his solo is a masterpiece of incisive melody. He's also a more than adequate vocalist, with some grit in his voice. This isn't the anguished blues of a Robert Johnson — the Piedmont style was always lighter — but the Washington, D.C., native updates the feel of someone like Blind Blake in generous, outgoing fashion. It's entertaining, but more than that; lovingly recorded, it's a testament to the fact that the blues will never die.

Blues Highway, Jay Summerous
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