It seems a lot of people, myself included, have a bad case of Winter Doldrums. I've found that a good live show is the surest cure, so I was really looking forward to seeing Holly Williams with Jason Isbell at The Haw River Ballroom in Saxapahaw North Carolina recently. The 700 tickets for this show sold out so quickly that another show was added for the following week. Those tickets also sold out in no time.
It's safe to say that the majority of the people in the venue were there to see Jason Isbell and some were unfamiliar with the opener, Holly Williams. It's also safe to say that after her eight song set, she had gained quite a few new fans.
The granddaughter of Hank Williams Sr. and daughter of Hank Williams Jr., Holly's Americana music skews more towards traditional country. She performed songs from her critically acclaimed album "The Highway" released in early 2013. The songs on this album are obviously very personal and the emotion in her voice conveys as beautifully live as it does on the album. Highlights from the set were "Drinkin'", title track "The Highway", "Gone Away from Me", and "Waiting on June". The only song in the set not from her recent album was a great version of "I Saw the Light", written and recorded by Hank Sr. in 1948. By the time she finished her set, she really had the crowd warmed up for the headliner.
By all accounts, Jason Isbell has had a stellar year. His most recent album, "Southeastern" is on every "Best of 2013" list that I've seen, but I was largely unfamiliar with his music. Like his opening act, his music is Americana but skews a bit more towards rock than country. The former member of Drive-By Truckers and his band, The 400 Unit, took the stage to huge applause and started their twenty song set with "Flying over Water". He moved with ease from more rock oriented songs to the gripping, emotionally charged "Elephant" and "Travelin' Alone", to an especially good cover of Candi Staton's "Heart on a String". The crowd moved right along with him, singing along the entire time. These were long time fans with a deep appreciation for his formidable talent as a songwriter and musician.
Though I came to the show primarily to see Holly Williams, I left with a much greater appreciation for Jason Isbell's music. If you get the chance to see either of these artists on tour, don't take a pass. They won't disappoint.
For more information visit www.hollywilliams.com & www.jasonisbell.com
Special thanks to Harriett Watkins, who attended the show and was kind enough to write this review for the site. You can follow Harriett on Twitter @harriett0312