Holly Williams (Kristin Barlowe. )
"The Highway" (Georgiana Records)
On her third album, "The Highway," Holly Williams shows that she got maybe the three most important genes from her grandfather, Hank Williams, and her outlaw daddy, Hank Jr. — the ones having to do with the writing of a song, telling compelling stories and developing a fierce individualistic streak.
"The Highway" is the most country-sounding record she's made, suggesting that as time goes by she's less insistent on emphasizing her distance from her celebrated forebears. There's still more of an indie-folk flavor to most of her songs, but now she's making music that best fits the tales she has to spin, and if that takes her into rootsy country, or meaty rock a la the Band, so be it.
COACHELLA: The 2013 lineup
As you'd expect given the title, Williams spends a lot of time singing of people in motion, whether toward or away from something, as in this vignette from "Without You":
I moved out west where the starlets play on the boulevards of West L.A.
And I tried to make a name
But it never felt like home to me so I drove three days back to Tennessee
In a slow and steady rain
Her songs can be narratively expansive or poetically taut (with the latter evident in the gripping opening track, "Drinkin'") and her imagery always reaches for something fresh. Both are long-held Williams family traditions well worth carrying into a new generation.