Reverend KM Williams – The Real Deal Blues
15 tracks / 52:10
Reverend KM Williams was brought up in East Texas, where (legend has it) as a toddler he first played the guitar while sitting on the lap of Elmore James. From there, Williams built his skills over the years by playing in churches where he got a righteous background in gospel and rhythm and blues. The Reverend is a serious guitarist and vocalist, but he also has a mean touch with the Diddley bow, a single string instrument that produces an amazing slide guitar tone in the correct hands. After listening to his new album, The Real Deal Blues, there is no doubt that Reverend KM Williams has the correct hands!
These days, listeners can find Williams playing his unique brand of raw blues on the stages of the Deep Ellum clubs in Dallas, Texas, alongside his friends such as drummer Washboard Jackson and the BMA-winning harp man, Deacon Jeff Stone. You can get a feel for this scene and the Texas blues tradition in the album’s companion short film, which is also titled The Real Deal Blues. The Reverend took his stage energy and vibe into Atom H Studios in Austin Texas, where producer Jurgen Engler brought this project to life. The resulting 15 tracks are all distinctive and innovative, while still remaining 100% blues – the album’s title is no joke.
Whatever you are expecting, once the set starts the sound of this disc will set you back on your heels a bit. It is all raw edges with a distant sound, jangly guitars, a wailing Diddley bow, and vocals that beg to you listen just a little harder. This is modern electrified music, but with the way it is recorded the gap between traditional and modern is bridged, and the way the listener interprets it might just depend on what mood he or she is in that day.
The Real Deal Blues is all about feel and mood, not showing off with flashy solos or crazed vocals, and this is apparent from the first track, “Baby Please Come Home.” Williams’ easygoing baritone vocals are set back in the mix, and the subject matter is undeniably the blues. Musically, there is a strong backbeat and the instruments are processed and electrified, but the overall vibe is vintage due to the classic repetitive blues structure of the lyrics and the overall murkiness of the tone. From there the Reverend explores swamp rock with “The Runaway Blues” which has a melting pot of guitar layers and a nice touch of Diddley Bow.
These first two songs are pretty intense, and Williams understands that this level of drama cannot be maintained for the whole album and still have people listening at the end. So there are a few conventional tunes sprinkled around the CD. “Ring in My Pocket” has a more laid back beat, and it is a sweet story of a man who has no cash in his wallet and plenty of holes in his shoes, but he is on the road home to his lady with a ring for her finger. Another more mainstream song is “Shoulda Left this Town,” which is a little slower and is built on a 12 bar blues foundation.
There are a few shorter-length themed songs, which also help to lighten the load at times when things start to get a bit heavy. “Highway 666” has a 1950s Johnny Cash rockabilly feel with a driving tempo and groovy sound effects that accompany the story of a man who has bad ambitions. Another cool tune is “Haunted House” with its roadhouse beat and a truckload of killer guitar tone.
If this album makes you wonder what a Diddley bow sounds like without electronics and processing, you will be happy that the closer is a bonus acoustic version of “Bad Boy Blues,” which appeared earlier on the album. In this case, the drama is still there, but it is a different mojo as the driving feel of the electric mix has been stripped away. Williams can make that single string sound like a dozen, and the man’s talent shines brightly when all of the studio magic is turned off.
Reverend KM Williams remains true to his roots and to the genre with The Real Deal Blues, and this album is an edgy 52-minute set of hardcore Texas blues. It is not easy listening, and it would be best to not distract yourself while it is playing as you could miss a lot. If you like what you hear and want to see him in person, head over to his website to check out his schedule; if you are in Dallas, Mississippi, or Spain, you are in luck as he has plenty of shows coming up!