Holly Williams is a singer/songwriter who comes from some very solid stock. As the daughter of Hank Williams, Jr., the half-sister of Hank Williams III, and the granddaughter of the late great Hank Williams, she has some pretty big shoes to fill. But lineage means nothing if you can't back it up on your own. Holly Williams has put out a record that does the Williams family proud and stands on its own two feet as a solid piece of country artwork.
The Highway is solid country songwriting and singing through and through. Holly has a unique rasp to her voice that really makes it stand out. If you play a song or two of Holly's for someone, they will instantly recognize her voice from there on out. That is an asset that singers need to be memorable and influential, and she has it and then some. But the best voice in the world is wasted if the songs aren't up to par. Thankfully, the songs on The Highway are extremely strong. In fact, I'd be hard pressed to tell which is stronger: the singing or the songwriting.
The album starts off with one of its strongest songs. "Drinkin'" is a simple country song about cheating and drinking. So many country songs talk about these topics, but a fresh take on it is always welcome. Holly balances anger with depression in this track to perfection, and the simple country instrumentals are perfect compliments to the mood. This is really a strong song.
Holly's soulful voice really comes through on the storytelling ballads on the album. "Gone Away From Me" tells a heartbreaking tale of losing family members and looking back to the past. "A Good Man" is a touching love song dripping with emotion. "Waiting On June" tells a true story of Holly's family. These songs really make Holly stand out as a songwriter. The lyrics speak to the heart and make you believe every word. That is what country music is all about.
"The Highway" is a nice mid-tempo number about the road that could be a big radio hit if Music Row had its head on straight. It has the "catchy-ness" that radio loves, but the lyrics and pure emotion of the vocals that traditionalists love. It's a win-win, but I'm sure it will go ignored by the radio. "Till It Runs Dry" is another possible hit, and it features heavy hitter Dierks Bentley on some solid background vocals. "Till It Runs Dry" may be my favorite song on the album, as the writing, music, and vocals really come together to just make a cool country sound that I can't get enough of.
Holly takes on dirty up-tempo numbers well too. "Railroads" is a fun traveling song with a cool story. "Let You Go" is a rootsy number with a rugged backing instrumentation that has a rough feel to it. Either of these are solid songs that if Holly doesn't make hits on her own, I could see a mainstream star record as an album cut to add some artistic merit to their album. Either way, these songs need to be heard, they are great.
Usually I try to find some downsides or demerits to an album as well to balance the review. I am struggling with that for this album. It is that good. It has catchy songs for the mainstream crowd, solid country gold for the traditionalists, and vocals and songwriting that anyone can appreciate. One of the biggest struggles of the offspring of royalty like Holly is finding your own place. Holly has found it and set herself up to surpass some of her famous kin if she continues on this path. As a Williams family record it is great. But if she was Holly Smith I'd buy it and love it anyway. I am sold on this album. It is one of the strongest of the year and already a front-runner for the Keep It Country Kids Album of the Year for 2013. Go listen to The Highway, you owe it to yourself.
Standout Tracks: "Drinkin'", "Railroads", "The Highway", "Till It Runs Dry"
Drinkin' Music Video