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Milwaukee singer/songwriter yields a rich
harvest on latest Cotton Bell album

Hayward Williams - Cotton Bell
(Machine Records)
4 stars (out of 5 stars)
Reviewed: Feb. 26, 2010
Hayward Williams

Review by Tony Bonyata

Progression for many musicians often means exploring new directions and dabbling in different genres, but as Hayward Williams proves on his third full-length effort, Cotton Bell, he's able to move forward within the age-old realm of Americana music by digging even deeper towards its original wellspring. And, in doing so, he makes it sound both fresh and relevant in an age of fickle tastes and fleeting fads.

While the Milwaukee-based singer/songwriter may sidestep some of the irresistible, foot-shuffling early Dylan-inspired alt-country from his previous record Another Sailor's Dream on this outing, he also taps into a simpler, more honest and earthy approach on both his compositions and arrangements - as these eight decidedly more introspective numbers attest.

The album opens with the hazy and intoxicating title track, which perfectly blends folk music with a sort of late night backroom jazz vibe. Others such as the thought-provoking "Mockingbird," "New Year's Eve" and "Great Plains," with its slight country inflection, are all beautiful and reflective numbers. But it's the album's two highlights, "In Doorways" and "I Will Understand (Mary Ann)" that really showcase Williams as a singer/songwriter to be reckoned with. Both tracks effortlessly blend strong composition and lyricism with indelible melodies and, what propels the majority of his work to greatness, his deep, sturdy and honest voice - one that not only speaks directly to the listener, but is also capable of stirring something much deeper within.

I've said it before and I'll say it again, whether you're into folk, Americana, alt-country, singer/songwriter fare or simply great music that can weather the test of time, this guy is the real deal.

Related articles:

Hayward Williams - basement tapes session #10 - June 2008

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