Reviews 2014

Woodman Folk Club - Reviews

Brooks Williams

Les Jones 20 June 2014

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The motto at the end of The Woodman banner says “Enjoy yourself”. Since The Woodman is a folk club I have several times argued that these two things are in opposition to each other – Folk Club/Enjoy? However last Friday I was proved wrong again. Brooks Williams plays a cross between Americana and more traditional American blues and is a true joy to listen to.

During the course of the evening he played a score of songs (Musical Joke) using three different instruments; albeit not all at the same time. A steel strung parlour style guitar of indeterminate make; a National Resonator and a cigar box guitar with which has only three strings. The latter was made by a Midlander who goes by the name of Chickenbone John - Bryn assures me that he is an old friend of the club but a little before my time. It is a wonderful instrument made from a genuine cigar box with the cigars removed and replaced by some sophisticated electronics. Well worth a listen to one if you get the chance. What puzzles me is who smokes all the cigars.

Enough of the wittering. Brooks entertained to two three quarter hour slots filled with everything from American blues “standards” such as Deep River Blues and Sitting On Top Of The World to several self penned songs such as Haunted which tells of returning to old places to find they have changed and Carry On which he assured us has nothing at all to do with old British Comedy films. He is undoubtedly a consummate guitarist who as all the best ones do seemed to make the most difficult sequences seem so easy, whether it be standard tuning; altered tunings; finger style; flat picking or slide. Sometimes several of them in one song. It is at this point that I must mention what a big impression with me. We have all sat in clubs for hours waiting for the artist to tune and retune the guitar between (or during) songs making the finest of adjustments the pitch of which is imperceptible to the normal human being. Not with Brooks – one quick turn of the key and voila perfection.

Brooks has lived in Cambridge with his wife for four years having moved here from his native Statesboro. All evening he regaled us with tales of his travels – guitar in hand – around what seemed like most of the countries of the civilised world over his long career. Particularly since being in Cambridge he seems to have had trouble recognising British Celebs. Most recently he failed to recognise a Spice Girl whom he found “annoying” and unsurprisingly Jasper Carrott who he had not heard of at all since his humour does not translate “Over the pond”. Considering he doesn’t translate very easily anywhere outside Birmingham what can you expect?

If you missed Brooks’s performance then you have lost out and you should take the first opportunity you can to hear him play. There is plenty of material on You Tube and he has a catalogue of 20 or so cds you can buy. Listen out for The King of California; Sarah Lynn and Me and Crazy About That Mercury to name but a few.
Something tells me he will be back.
Enjoy Yourselves: