Biddulph Arms @ September 27, 2017
State of the Union
In the grand tradition of ‘The Special Relationship’, State Of The Union combines the talents of America and England, producing an end result that is sure to delight fans of hook-laden songs, fiery and emotional guitar playing and soulful vocals.
Tapping into a multitude of influences, from Willie Nelson and Johnny Cash to Blind Lemon Jefferson, the wide open Fenlands and the frenetic buzz of London, State Of The Union is a masterclass in songwriting, showing off the talents of bluesy Americana stalwart Brooks Williams and cult British singer-songwriter Boo Hewerdine to full effect.
When Brooks was called in at the eleventh hour to replace the billed Special Guests at Boo’s annual Christmas shindig, the seeds for State Of The Union were sown.
“Boo rang me up that morning and asked: ‘Could you, would you?’ To which I responded, ‘Yes’”, explains Brooks. “The audience loved it. We loved it, and soon we were playing together as often as our schedules allowed, and working on a collaborative album.”
With both men bringing songs to the table, and collaborating on new material, the chemistry between the duo was undeniable as a torrent of creativity was unleashed in Boo’s living room.
Making rough demos on their iPhones, the decision was made to record the songs proper at the Kyoti Studio in Glasgow. A week was booked, but just as the songs had flowed so freely, the pair cut the album in a mere one and half days, recording the songs in the order they appear on the album. With production handled by Mark Freegard (Pete Townshend, Del Amitri, Marillion), the album is intimate and captivating, like a concert delivered in your living room. Two guys, two guitars and a handful of great songs.
Album opener ‘Darkness’, a slice of dusty Americana, sees Williams’ smooth vocals riding on top of his slick, slide guitar playing. Conjuring images of a battered frontiersman returning home, the song is a masterpiece of concise story telling.
‘23 Skidoo’ by Hewerdine is a wryly humorous look at the bittersweet nature of life, no sooner have you got a grip on things and you’re forced to move on. With its 1920s rag-style guitar parts harking back to the era that gave birth to the phrase, the song has all the hallmarks of an old classic, belying its contemporary nature.
With a sharp turn, the pair’s take on ‘Rent’ flips the Pet Shop Boys’ song on its head, taking the electro-pop original and dressing it in wiry slide guitar, with Hewerdine’s voice bringing an aching honesty to the lyrics.
Whether it’s authentic Americana, delicate ballads, reimagining modern pop or a new take on the classic standard ‘Peg And Awl’, the union of Williams and Hewerdine is in a wildly creative state, producing one of the year’s must-have albums.
‘A slice of Americana at its finest!’ – fRoots
‘Deft, tasteful guitar chops’ – Rolling Stone
‘A beautiful album, full of classy playing and great songs’ – Acoustic Magazine