Knife Edge

Brooks Williams

Green Linnet 1995

A review for the Folk & Acoustic Music Exchange
By Geoffrey Huys

Over the years and the past several albums, as I've listened to Brooks Williams I've always had a question in my mind concerning whether he was more a singer/songwriter or an instrumental guitarist. On previously released works he has demonstrated brilliance in one form or the other, but with his latest album KNIFE EDGE, I think I've personally settled the issue. He is definitely both. In his latest release Williams demonstrates both a nearly flawless instrumental technique as well as finely crafted and performed vocal music.

Knife Edge was released on the Green Linnet label in the latter half of 1995 following his release the previous year of Inland Sailor. Williams' latest work contains an incredible sixteen tracks including four instrumentals and an additional dozen new songs. Williams wrote all but two of the songs he recorded and on those he has certainly left his mark.

The songs include:

With such a long list of great songs it's hard to know where to begin. "Monterrey Pines" is one of the cleverest songs about sex I've ever heard. Though describing the bursting of pine cones Williams is clearly talking about something else. A catchy rhythm and music help to underscore the essential message of this song, a message which might just come through even if the words were lacking. "Rotterdam Bar" pays tribute to one of Belfast's most popular night clubs. It looks at the establishment from the viewpoint of a performer who is "a day late and a dollar short." The intrepid musician goes on the stage to play four chord blues even though workers are tearing the place apart. "This World Is Not My Home" is a traditional song which Williams learned a couple of years ago while attending a Sunday night hymn-sing in an Adventist Church in Maine. Though the words may be familiar Williams provides just the musical touch necessary to give the song an updated touch. The title track "Knife Edge" is a love song couched in the metaphor about a narrow trail on Maine's Mt. Katahdin where hikers are warned about the narrow path where the side drops off steeply. The parallels to romantic relationships are clear as the view from that trail on a sunny summer day.

Interspersed throughout the album are four instrumentals where Brooks Williams displays his remarkable skills as a solo guitarist playing acoustic, bottleneck slide, and National resolectric guitar. "Lee's Highway" was inspired by a stretch of Virginia road on which Williams has frequently traveled, and I can see it as he lays down the notes. "When The Dentist Dreams" is Williams' interpretation of what dentists must do when they finally lay down to rest. "Goodbye Walker Percy" is a fine instrumental tribute to this wonderful performer flavored with a sense of life in Louisiana and the Deep South.

If you're a Brooks Williams fan you have probably already purchased this album and I've been preaching to the choir. If you have not yet been introduced to the music of this wonderful New England performer, you can do no better than to start with this latest album. KNIFE EDGE was one of my top ten album picks of 1995 and stands as what I think is Brooks Williams' finest work to date. The greatest challenge for Brooks Williams may be to create a next album that will be the equal of this one.

Copyright 1996, Three Rivers Folklife Society.
This review may be reprinted with prior written permission.

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