The Highway by Holly Williams
If Holly Williams’ third album, The Highway, her first released without major-label support, were any more haunting, it could double as the soundtrack of Syfy’s Ghost Hunters. This is stark, sometimes dark, material, the kind that touches nerves, moistens eyes and causes the hair on the back of one’s neck to tingle. But unlike the supernatural, The Highway’s songs, all of them written or co-written by Holly, are steeped in the real.
“Drinkin’” is a fightin’, cheatin’ and, yep, drinkin’ song that doesn’t send up such flaws as white-trash parodies, but uses them to paint a picture of a damaged relationship. “Gone Away From Me,” meanwhile, recounts visits to family graves with Mom and Dad, a pilgrimage that the narrator dreaded as a child but comes to miss now that those graves have multiplied. The title track is about Holly longing for life on tour, and “Without You” deals with putting an end to roaming to find that right partner—both are brilliant road songs.
Dierks Bentley lends his distinct vocals to “’Til It Runs Dry” (which would have fit in nicely on Dierks’ Up on the Ridge album), and Jackson Browne, Jakob Dylan and Gwyneth Paltrow also appear throughout. But this isn’t a Holly & Friends project. Instead, it’s an album that defines an artist, proving that the Williams name (the daughter of Bocephus, Holly comes from the Hank lineage) remains as trailblazing and unique as ever.