By Conner Jensen
After a lucrative year in 2015 with major success in New Zealand, his country of origin, as well as Australia, Marlon Williams is starting this year by making an impact on America by releasing his debut album. Williams’ album was nominated for Best Blues and Roots Album at the ARIA Awards in Australia, along with two wins at the New Zealand Music Awards for Best Male Solo Artist as well as Breakthrough Artist of the Year. Marlon Williams and the Yarra Benders’ debut album will be releasing to the states on February 19th, and their debut tour of the country is already underway. The four piece band is comprised of vocalist and guitarist Marlon Williams, vocalist and drummer Gus Agars, bassist and vocalist Ben Woolley and Dave Khan on electric guitar, mandolin, fiddle, and vocals. The quartet has crafted a bluegrass masterpiece that combines both folk and modern elements of music.
The album beings with “Hello Mrs. Lonesome", the song the group played live on ABC Breakfast TV. The song starts with three quick strums on a guitar then erupts into a high tempo blend of acoustic guitar and mandolin accompanied by a snare-dominated percussion. The song progresses to tell a story of a woman who knows many people but has no one true companion, and the singer has been one of the companions who she left. The tasteful fillings of mandolin and electric guitar make this song a strong start to an exceptionally well-crafted album. The song fades then quickly picks back up into “After All” with a more country-esque guitar harmony, combining electric guitar and acoustic guitar, while also staying true to the folk sound. This song is likely to remind the listener of songs by The Beatles, with instrumental solos as well as the quartet harmonizing in a way which would only indicate an influence from the rock n’ roll icons. These two songs provide for a fast-paced and tasteful beginning to Williams’ first studio album.
“Dark Child” slows the pace of the album down to showcase Williams’ range of voice. The song opens with the slow strumming of the acoustic guitar and a slow tempo percussion accompaniment. “Dark Child” maintains the underlying somber tone from the previous songs; however this song makes it more prominent due to the fact that the directed audience is a child that has deceased. The slow paced strumming and the beautiful instrumentals placed throughout the song make for an excellent transition into the remainder of the album. A slow, bluesy bass line opens “Lost Without You”. A fiddle and the snare-dominant percussion join in on the bluesy jam to craft my personal favorite song. Williams shows his range throughout the song encompassing his longing for someone. Then, following the verses are harmonious instrumentals, which later are accompanied by an ominous synthesizer to close out the song and make for a contrast to the lighter sounding song that follows. “Lonely Side of Her” opens with a light-hearted plucking of an acoustic guitar that continues to be the primary sound of the entire song. Williams displays his dynamic range while harmonizing with band members to create a relieved tone that leaves the listener refreshed and ready for the end of the album.
“Silent Passage” begins with a slow folk-esque strumming of an acoustic guitar, primarily utilizing the higher portions of the guitar, and later is accompanied by the fiddle and the percussion playing at a similar pace. Williams remains in his higher ranges throughout the song, maintaining the melancholy tone that was established by the previous song. “Silent Passage” makes for a nice transition into “Strange Things,” which begins with an ominous synthesizer along with acoustic guitar to bring the album back to the more ominous tone that was touched on in “Dark Child.” Williams’ higher pitched singing along with instrumental harmonies of fiddle, synthesizer, and percussion make for a tasteful penultimate song to the debut album. The album closes with “When I Was A Young Girl,” which starts with a bridge on the acoustic guitar that progresses into a mild-paced plucking. This song showcases Williams’ full range, going both low and high throughout the verses. Much like “Lonely Side of Her”, the acoustic guitar is the dominant sound throughout the entire song. The song progresses for five minutes as Williams takes the listener on a roller coaster with his range, with a very impressive finish.
Marlon William’s debut album has already received nominations for several awards, and after listening through it’s clear why. This group puts a new spin on bluegrass music by encompassing elements of country, rock n’ roll, and folk. The album is the band’s first studio album, released under Dead Oceans. With the debut of their new album along with success in Australia, one can only expect great things to come for this highly talented group. Although this is their debut, with the talent and flair this group has, this certainly won’t be the last we hear of them.