Bristol, UK-born and based singer/songwriter and soul artist Hannah Williams can trace the origins of her musical career to growing up in an extremely musical family AS her father was a musically gifted local minister and her mother, allowed a very young Williams to join the church choir when she was 6. In fact, a young Williams learned how to read music — before she could actually read words. And with the release of her 2012 full-length release Hill of Feathers, Williams exploded into both the national and international soul scene. Hill of Feathers‘ first single “Work It Out” was an international indie, smash hit as the song received attention across the blogosphere and airplay on radio stations across the US, Australia and Europe; in fact, the single was at one point the most downloaded song in Greece — and the official video received well over 1 million plays on YouTube. This shouldn’t be surprising as Williams husky and soulful vocals bear an uncanny resemblance to the legendary Dusty Springfield and others.
Adding to a growing international profile. Williams has played at some of Europe’s biggest, most well-regarded festivals including sets at Shambala Festival, Valley Fest, Wilderness Festival, Cambridge Jazz Festival and Larmer Tree Festival — and she’s played in some of Europe’s well-known venues including Hamburg, Germany‘s Mojo; Manchester UK’s Band on the Wall; Camden, UK‘s Jazz Cafe and others. And in addition to that, she’s played shows with an incredible list of renowned artists including Sharon Jones and The Dap Kings, Cat Power, Charles Bradley, and others.
Produced by The Heliocentrics’ Malcolm Catto, who has produced Mulatu Astatke, Orlando Julius and the iconoclastic author/auteur/film producer/actor/musician Melvin Van Peebles, and collaborated with Floating Points, Quantic, DJ Shadow and Madlib, Williams’ much-anticipated sophomore effort was recorded, mixed and mastered to tape at London‘s Quatermass Studios, Williams’s highly-anticipated sophomore full-lenth effort Late Nights and Heartbreak will be released Stateside and elsewhere on Friday through Record Kicks Records. Interestingly enough the effort not only marks the first time Williams has worked with Catto, it also marks the first recorded effort with her new backing band, the Bristol, UK-based The Affirmations — and from the material I’ve heard off the album, the band comprised of James Graham (organ, piano and Wurlitzer), Adam Holgate (guitar), Adam Newton (bass), Jai Widdowson-Jones (drums), Nicholas Malcolm (trumper), Liam Treasure (trombone), Victoria Klewin (baritone saxophone) and Hannah Nicholson (backing vocals) are not just an incredibly tight unit, but they can give the world-famous Daptone Records bands a run for their money.
The album’s first single “Tame in the Water” has Williams and The Affirmations pairing her incredibly soulful vocals with a tight and funky groove, shuffling drumming, twinkling keys, shimmering guitar chords and a bold horn line to create a sultry, mid-tempo torch song with a narrator, who has had enough of her lover’s shit and wants out, knowing that she deserved and still deserves much better — all while sounding as though it could have been released in 1964 or so. And in some way, the song nods a bit at Dusty Springfield’s “Son of a Preacher Man” but with a visceral sense of heartbreak that’s devastating.
The charmingly goofy music video follows the relationship between Williams and a anthropomorphic rabbit, who she discovers is a no-good, cheating, irresponsible lout, which follows the song’s narrative. And towards the end we see an extremely pissed Williams packing her stuff and calling a friend to give her a ride while her former lover gets sloshed — and then kicked out of a bar.
The album’s second single is an amazing, mind-blowing psychedelic soul rendition of “Dazed and Confused” that draws equally from the original version written by Jake Holmes, Led Zeppelin’s legendary cover and The Temptations’ “Papa Was A Rolling Stone” — but with a swaggering, self-assuredness. And from both singles a few things are apparent: Hannah Williams can fucking sing her heart out — and I can guarantee that you will be hearing about her and the Affirmations for quite some time; the chemistry and simpatico between Williams and the Affirmations is undeniable, as they’ve created some of the tightest and funkiest music of their young careers.