Americana. As hard to define as the causes of Brexit. From Show of Hands to Joe Bonamassa, acts of every make-up get bundled under the banner. But William The Conqueror, newly-formed three-piece led by folk veteran Raurri Joseph, might fit the banner best. Why? Because they are by design a genre-breaking band, formed to escape the confines of Joseph’s folk pedigree. So rather than sit pretty in one sect of rootsiness, William The Conqueror sit astride the whole lot. And more.
Debut album ‘Proud Disturber of the Peace’ is a bold statement. Dipping its cup in every music bar between Seattle and New Orleans, yet kept lovingly consistent thanks to the trio’s tailor-crafted nostalgic tone and Joseph’s wealth of road-worn lyrics.
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The ten-track proclamation kicks off with ‘In My Dreams’. Riffing on the psychedelic surf rock of The Ventures and Tarantino’s mixtapes, it’s a slick opening credits for Joseph, bassist Naomi Holmes and drummer Harry Harding’s near-narcotic blend. Then just as you’re settling in for the energy, William come over all anthemic for second track ‘Tend To The Thorns’. Taking all the best from Kings of Leon’s arena rock and staging a shotgun wedding with the world-weary confessions of Guy Clark, it pulses with the power of the Mississippi herself and showcases Joseph’s hidden talent for forging vast, throbbing guitar tones. Then without a breath, we swing into ‘Did You Wrong’, a Nashville hip-shaker reared on The Black Keys and Creedence Clearwater Revival. And that’s just the opening trilogy.
The rest of ‘Proud Disturber’ keeps the train rolling, each carriage a varied gem. ‘Sunny Is The Style’ stands out; a thunderous country-tinged ballad with gospel harmonies and a harmonica stolen from some 1930s Hooverville. ‘Many Faces Of A Good Truth’ lets Holmes and Harding take the spot, laying down a juicy R&B groove for Joseph to play Gilmour over, and all pitch in on the delta blues chain-gang chorus. ‘Mind Keeps Changing’ takes cues from the 60s twisting chart-toppers of Herman’s Hermits and The Kinks, and walk-into-the-sunset finale ‘Manuwatu’ flies the flag for Springsteen. A heart-swelling slow-dance with The River harmonicas and a golden horn section, yet still quintessentially William.
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That’s the most remarkable thing about ‘Proud Disturber’. Not its variety, but its consistency. They rub shoulders with giants of many a kind, but they’ve still cultivated a sound that’s instantly recognisable. In the distinctive sepia thrum of all three playing together, like the weight of history is ringing in the amps and drums. In Joseph’s cryptic lyrics, that read like assorted quotes from some eloquent drifter’s memoir. And in their passion for the music they’re playing, which is the blood that keeps the album pumping. William The Conqueror haven’t just escaped the shackles of their past. They’re thrown them on the fire and forged them into an engine. Like the one-time king they share their name with, they have the kind of determination that can only end in glory.
‘Proud Disturber of the Peace’ is out on the 4th August 2017. The track-listing is as follows…