At the crossroads of blues and American roots music you’ll find Brooks Williams. “Setting new standards and a fresh direction for the blues,” says Blues In Britain, and creating a “beautiful fusion” (Keys And Chords). Just when you think he can’t sing a blues-ier note, he sings it. Just when you think he can’t strum a deeper groove, he strums it.
Brooks Williams was born in Statesboro, Georgia, USA (the town made famous by the classic song Statesboro Blues), and did his apprenticeship in the small bars and coffeehouses of New York and Boston, following in the footsteps of Chris Smither, Rory Block, Shawn Colvin, Maria Muldaur, David Bromberg and Leo Kottke, all whom he gigged with from time-to-time when he was starting out.
The result of those early years is an unflagging career that goes from strength to strength. “Lucky Star,” Williams’ 28th solo recording, is already turning heads and making itself known on playlists throughout the world. The Second Line groove that runs throughout every track would make the late Allen Toussaint proud.
Williams performs hundreds of solo and band shows throughout Europe, North America and the UK each year and regularly collaborates with an impressive list of fellow musicians, including Hans Theessink, Guy Davis, Sally Barker, Boo Hewerdine, Paul Jones, and Rab Noakes.
Ranked in the Top 100 Acoustic Guitarists, he’s a mean finger-picker and a stunning slide guitarist. Plus, “he has a beautiful voice,” says AmericanaUK, “that you just melt into.” That voice earned Brooks a nomination for Best Male Vocalist by Spiral Earth, one of the UK’s most respected roots music publications.
He’s no slouch as a songwriter, and has an impeccable ear for a good cover. "Williams’ original songs are typically sophisticated musically, and yet sound immediately familiar – a sign of a skilled songwriter”, writes Down At The Crossroads. His massive repertoire spans classic roots and blues. Check out his version of Dave Alvin’s “King Of California” and follow it with Williams’ instant classic, “Gambling Man.”
Brooks Williams has played all the major stages, like The Birchmere in Virginia, The Guthrie Center in Massachusetts, The Tolbooth in Scotland, The Liverpool Philharmonic Hall in England, Meneer Frits in The Netherlands, Harvest Blues in Ireland, The Avalon Theater in Maryland, JazzLand in Austria, The Stables in England, and Blues Au Chateau in France. And he gets invited back.
He’s played the Fairport Cropredy Festival, Newport Folk Festival, Kerrville Folk Festival, Costa del Folk, Shrewsbury Festival, Celtic Connections and the Glastonbury Festival.
He’s recorded for labels as diverse as Signature Sounds, Green Linnet Records, Reveal Records, Solid Air Records, as well as his own Red Guitar Blue Music. He’s learned the studio trade first-hand working with roots music producers like Colin Linden (Blackie And The Rodeo Kings, Bruce Cockburn) in Toronto and Phil Madeira (Buddy and Julie Miller, Emmylou Harris) in Nashville.
His instructional guitar workshops frequently sell out, and his teaching is in demand at music camps and colleges around the world. His music has featured on the BBC (UK), RTE (Ireland), CBC (Canada), NPR (USA) and Sirius XM (USA), and he’s charted on the FOLKDJ chart, EuroAmericana chart and Blues Lists around the world. WUMB-FM in Boston (USA) voted him one of their Top 100 Artists.
Praised by Blues Matters, fRoots, Rolling Stone, the Boston Globe and Mojo, Williams is at the top of his game. His tour schedule has never been busier. He writes and records at an astonishing pace. He loves it, and that love exudes from every note.
Nobody really knows who J.P. Cormier is for sure. That’s to be expected, believe me.
In 1974 he was a five year old boy, discovering an innate talent for playing the guitar, I had a little hand in that, guiding him through the beginning stages. He learned faster than I could teach.
By the mid eighties, not out of his teens, he was a sideman for bands and artists of many different genres in Alabama, Tennessee, Mississippi, and all across the deep south. As he travelled and worked he added more and more instruments to his arsenal of capabilities. He became indispensable to the bands he worked for.
In the early Nineties, he became a sideman for one of Canada’s favourite sons, Stompin’ Tom Connors and also became a staple of the recordings at Studio H in Halifax. His work with the CBC there, spanned musical, production and arranging duties. All this before he was 20.
In the mid nineties he reentered the musical scene of his beloved East Coast and the Island called Cape Breton. He exploded onto the trad music scene there as a fiddler, performing some of the most difficult music ever produced by legends like Winston Fitzgerald and Angus Chisholm with a facility that stunned onlookers. Especially those who knew he wasn’t born there, but born in Ontario to Cape Breton parents. Somehow, some way, his music was the real thing, sounding like he had been steeped continually in a handed-down brew of family tradition from the old country .Nothing could be further from the truth.
His previous gig was in Nashville playing mandolin and banjo in a grammy nominated bluegrass gospel band and performing on the Opry, and playing television shows with the likes of Waylon Jennings. All those people also thought he was one of them, American, reared in the ways of bluegrass, old time and Americana music. They knew he was from Canada, but it just didn’t seem possible.
Then in 1997, something amazing happened. An album released in Canada, out of nowhere, called Another Morning. This time it was him as a songwriter and a lead singer.
And what a songwriter he turned out to be. Some of the performances on that album are literally part of the musical vocabulary today in the East Coast. Songs like the title cut, and Kelly’s Mountain, The Molly May (co written with his cousin Gervais) and others. It inspired, 25 years ago, some of the biggest names in the business today. People like Dave Gunning, Matt Andersen, David Myles, Joel Plaskett, all of which will tell you: that record changed things.
The Canadian industry thought so too, and it received a juno nomination and won an ECMA. And that was just the beginning. 36 years later after stepping on stage as professional union musician for the first time at the tender age of 13, JP is still going, and frighteningly, still getting better.
16 albums followed the success of Another Morning, winning 12 more ECMA’s, another Juno nomination, a Canadian Folk Music Award and 5 Music Nova Scotia Awards. Each album was a snapshot of each thing that he can do. There are fiddle albums, Mandolin, Banjo, Guitar, tribute records, songwriting collections, a purely astounding spectrum of talent and musical vision.
His catalogue of recordings and the 150 or so records he’s produced on other artists, resemble the tapestry he weaves in live performance. Where he used to carry 3 and 4 piece bands, he tours alone now. Just him and the instruments.
People still leave his shows confused, amazed and wondering what they just saw. Did they see a storyteller? A Songwriter? Arguably one of the best guitar players in the business today? Someone who crosses the lines between different instruments like there are no lines? Who was that masked man, anyway?
Accolades aside, and there are many from people like Chet Atkins, Marty Stuart, Waylon Jennings, Gordon Lightfoot; JP sees himself as just a performer. He’s shy, but has a razor sharp wit and lightning sense of humour. He can be reserved or edgy to the point no return. He speaks for soldiers, first responders, other artists, the forgotten and lost. He speaks sometimes only for himself and refuses rebuttal.
Of all the things he is, foremost he is an entertainer. I think one of the best. After you’ve seen what he does, I’m certain you will too.
Named ‘Best Group/Duo’ in the 2014 International Acoustic Music Awards, acoustic-duo Ryanhood got their first break more than a decade ago as street-performers at Boston’s Quincy Market. It was there that they were spotted by a college booking agent and thrust into the college touring scene, where Campus Activities Magazine would name them “one of the most requested acts by college buyers all across the country.” They’ve since gone on to perform more than 1000 shows in 45 U.S. states over the past decade and have shared stages with Jason Mraz, Matt Nathanson, Train, and many more.
Cameron Hood’s rich and folky lead vocals, Ryan Green’s explosive guitar and mandolin riffs, and their airtight vocal harmonies prompted the Arizona Daily Star to call them, “a match made in radio heaven.”
And their star is still on the rise. They were recently named the “Discovery of the Year” by John Platt at WFUV New York City, and were a featured act at Australia’s National Folk Festival in April 2018. Their sixth and newest album, Yearbook, is led by their signature two-part vocal harmonies, decorated with flares of guitar, ukulele, and mandolin, and centers on songs about being young, growing old, and making peace with the passing of time. They currently reside in their hometown of Tucson, AZ, where they have won more than a dozen Tucson Music Awards including “Best Folk Band” and “Best Rock Band” (you can decide for yourself which is most accurate).