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Holly Williams

The Highway – 2013 (Georgiana)

Reviewed by Kevin Oliver

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CDs by Holly Williams

Let's get it out of the way right up front-yes, Holly Williams is the granddaughter of Hank Williams and the daughter of Hank Jr., but her last name is about the only thing she shares with them, given that her own music hews closer to a rootsy Americana vibe than any kind of country, classic or otherwise.

Her latest album is her first independent effort after releases on Mercury and Universal South, and it's a more subdued, acoustic-based sound that dominates throughout, like Kim Richey or Gretchen Peters with even less twang. Producer Charlie Peacock gives her a spare yet balanced musical bedrock that's appropriately hushed on Gone Away From Me and more jaunty and upbeat on the train metaphor tune Railroads, and guests from Dierks Bentley to Jakob Dylan and Gwyneth Paltrow spice up the tracks nicely with more than just name-dropping star power.

Williams has a singer-songwriter's way with vivid imagery and emotionally resonant themes. Drinkin' is the dysfunctional domestic relationship version of Mary Gauthier's I Drink, while The Highway is a romanticized ode to the road, a contemporary Americana take on a theme visited by everyone from Bob Seger and Jackson Browne to NeedtoBreathe.

Williams is at her best here when she strips things down to their essence, whether it's the insistent beat of Til It Runs Dry or the heartbreaking acoustic closer Waiting on June. She's not her dad or her grandfather, but then again she's never tried to be - why imitate when she can create her own legacy, on her own terms, with songs like these?