Marlon Williams

Marlon Williams

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On his eponymous solo debut, New Zealand-born singer/songwriter Marlon Williams offers up a compelling, Southern-hemisphere take on bluegrass, Appalachian country-folk, and southern gothic folk-pop that invokes everyone from Gram Parsons and Frankie Laine to Timbre Timbre and Nick Cave. Specializing in character-driven narratives that bristle with hardship and heartache, Williams' strong, clear voice is lent extra weight by the immediacy of the arrangements, the most compelling of which occupy the album's front half. Opener "Hello Miss Lonesome" impresses right out of the gate, carried forth with a fury and relentless gallop that recall "Ghost Riders in the Sky." Williams segues effortlessly into bouncy country-rock with the late-period Byrds-esque "After All," making pit stops at torchy R&B, brooding Chris Isaak-inspired pop, and even "Cowbells Shakin'"-era Scott Walker before petering out into a largely acoustic and unaccompanied back half that lets a little wind out of the sails. That Williams can keep so many balls in the air makes for an impressive bit of juggling, but adjusting to his myriad guises can be a bit whiplash inducing. Still, it's hard not to admire his boldness. He's willing to go big or go home, which is more than can be said of some of his contemporaries, and what he lacks in authenticity, he more than makes up for in audacity.

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