Boasting roots from the Blue Ridge Mountains and a creative life untainted by hard knocks, the duo of Doug and Telisha Williams are on the road again. They've warmed the stage for The Steel Wheels, Lucinda Williams and Joe Ely, performed multiple festivals, large and small and command a loyal following, when playing solo.
Their new album, Ghost of the Knoxville Girl, showcases their diverse songwriting and performing skills. On it, Doug plays his guitar with both ferocious swagger and gentle restrain. Telisha adds a distinct foundation with her upright bass.
On "Graveyard Train," you can feel the throbbing rumble underfoot. On "Unrepentant Sinners Last Prayer," Telisha's voice assumes a mighty Gospel tinge as she declares: "Gonna sail out on the ocean deep / taste that salty air..."
"Learning to Drink Whiskey" is much more than the standard drowning-in-tears saloon fare. The ballad is soaked in regret and heartfelt remorse. Telisha's ageless voice, which recalls the vibrant pipes of the late Patsy Cline, conveys the misery of disillusionment with divine subtlety.
On the lighter side, "Go Go Go!" expresses the freedom that comes from abandoning routine. "It's in my blood, I've got to roam. I don't ever want to go home," Talisha sings, with the abandon of a school girl anticipating summer break.
The plaintive "If My Heart" is heightened by Doug's simple, expressive six-string backing. Narrative is also communicated genuinely on "20.2" - the title reflects the shocking unemployment statistic that ultimately threatened Doug, Telisha and their neighbors back home. "This used to be America, the land of hopes and dream," begins this tale of harsh economic blight.
On "Loretta's Ballad,"the listener is on the seat's edge when "Freddy won't put down his pistol 'cause he likes the way it feels" and "the fires of hell" blaze forth beneath the stirring vocals. If you're at home when you play this CD, you'll undoubtedly double lock the door even if you're expecting company.
But even "off the record," Doug and Telisha Williams are an exciting and self-sufficient team who quickly establish intimacy with their audiences. If you love hearing stories that challenge the imagination and melodies that cut to the core, stop by and see them.
WHO: Doug & Telisha Williams
WHERE: Space 1245 Chicago Ave. Evanston, Illinois
WHEN: February 27, 2013, 6:45 Doors Open, 7:30 Show
tickets: $10 and up.