Hell to Pay
Dramatic and Emotional Urban Blues.
Some days I just don’t know what I want to listen to, so I stick my I-Phone onto ‘random’ and let the fates decide ……. and after nearly ten minutes of pressing ‘next’ I stumbled on this album ……… Oooh ……Ooooh and thrice OOOH!
Now a full day later I am totally smitten with New Yorker Billie Williams and her gritty, emotional and Soulful take on The Blues.
In today’s crowded market it’s no longer good enough for a female singer to rely on her ‘pretty face’ and can ‘sing a bit’ to make a lasting mark; she has to be the whole package, singer, songwriter AND performer …… and right from the smouldering ‘break up’ song Damn which opens Ms William’s second release, it’s evident that she ticks every box there is …. and some more.
Just like the best that there’s ever been, she doesn’t just sing the words, she inhabits the characters in her songs. Prime examples are the rolling barroom ballad Drink From My Cup and the piano led Cold November, which has a big theatrical feel to it as Billie drags us on an emotional roller-coaster for four long minutes.
There’s a lot going on in these songs; and not just in the stories and lyrics……. Billie Williams has surrounded herself with some truly excellent musicians and backing singers; which when combined turn the darkly funklicious title track HELL TO PAY and Lost In The Wilderness into songs that transcend the Blues and even Soul as they much more than just that.
I am obviously not the targeted demographic for Ten Million Sisters; but can really appreciate and admire the sentiment that this new Feminist Anthem portrays ……. and alongside Take These Dreams, which precedes it,t has more than a hint of something I’d expect to hear in ‘Woman the Musical,’ where such a thing to turn up on Broadway.
While any of the songs I’ve already mentioned could be your Favourite Track; two in particular have had me coming back to listen ever more intently to Billie William’s detailed and articulate songwriting. You is one Helluva song, with a very danceable melody that masks an important message; while My Everything is a gorgeous Love Song that would have helped mend my regularly broken heart as a teenager had it been a 45 on Atlantic or Stax; which makes it shade the race for Favourite Song status.
Unlike many Bluesy albums I get to hear, this isn’t always an ‘easy listen’; as Billie Williams draws on some very brave subjects to write about; but that’s exactly what we need these days …… ‘brave and courageous’ songwriters, especially female ones; and Billie Williams fills that void very well indeed.
Released 19th 2019