I recently stumbled across the words for these seven songs and felt inspired to set them to my own music. Some of them are ancient songs with origins lost to history, others date to the late 1800s, and one of them was written in 2004. All of them convey a mood of longing and perseverance – two characteristics of traditional folk music I’ve always been drawn to.
The process couldn’t have been any more simple. As soon as I found a melody and arrangement that suited the words, I recorded each song through my iPhone and these are the results; these bare-bones recordings capture the initial moment of inspiration for each song.
True – these are what most folks would consider scratch tracks or first takes. And while I may, one day, decide to do more with them, what you’ll hear on this album is the initial moment of inspiration for each song. Despite the occasional throat-clearing or flubbed note, I was able to capture the precise moment when these songs “clicked” for me, which usually disappears from a song when it’s put through the mechanical process of recording and production. From that perspective, they’re perfectly imperfect and I couldn’t have recorded them any better if I’d tried.
It’s been eight years since I last performed as a solo folksinger, but on March 31, 2017, I dusted off some of my old tunes and even played a new one for an intimate show at Conroy’s Pub in Lawrence, KS.
It was a surprisingly gratifying experience for me, and I hope to have another opportunity to do it again soon. More than that, though, it got my creative juices flowing and I’ve begun working on a new album of folk songs that I hope to release digitally in Fall 2017. This time, I’ll be working with lyrics from old-time folk songs in the public domain and setting them to my own arrangements. At some point, I may be interested to write new songs from scratch, but for now I’m really enjoying the process of working with great words already written.
The aforementioned “new” song from the recent Conroy’s performance is my arrangement of the old folk standard “Rye Whiskey.” Lyrically, it’s a combination of a few well-known versions, and musically, the new arrangement gives an already timeless song a bit of a contemporary feel, in my opinion. Here’s what it sounded like at Conroy’s:
Before gas tractors plowed the fields, steam traction engines ruled the prairie. Now, the glory days of steam farming live on through the words of the men and women who experienced them firsthand.
These 12 poems, originally submitted to the steam engine enthusiast magazine Iron-Men Album back in the 1950s, have been unearthed and set to original music by Christian Williams. Enjoy this glimpse of a little-known chapter of American history.
Released April 1, 2009. Poems written by Chestor Phalor, Eva K. Anglesburg, Harry Fischback, Ernest Pawson, E.C. Harsch, Helen Virden, Mrs. B.K. Francis, John Kelly, J.F. Loffelmacher, Chas. L. Genter, O.H. Nieman and Mae Baber. Original music composed, performed, and recorded by Christian Williams in Lawrence, KS. Album design and layout by Jeannine Snyder.
A protest-folk autobiography, this album found me applying the moral lessons I’ve learned to combat religious and patriotic fanaticism and the capitalistic way of life. It was my effort to weather the storm by finding shelter in the simple life and personal relationships I value most.
Released November 4, 2008. All words and music composed, performed, and recorded by Christian Williams in Lawrence, KS.
About the journey from one place to the next; how nature carves our path, how fear and trust determine our direction, and how acknowledging our blindness can help us see much clearer.
Released May 1, 2008. All words and music composed, performed and recorded by Christian Williams in Lawrence, KS, except “Troubadour” which features Kristi Henderson on flute; album cover art by Christopher Stewart.
A collection of Gothic yarns, toe-tapping lamentations, and epitaphs. They come from a place where tornadoes reunite lost lovers, where evil men turn into cockroaches, and where the down-and-out still manage to crack a crooked smile and stand with a defiance that only comes when you have nothing left to lose.
Released September 1, 2007. All words and music composed, performed, and recorded by Christian Williams in Lawrence, KS, except the following, which were recorded in Milwaukee, WI: “Summer Breeze” featuring Andrew Hansen on drums, “Henry May” and “PBR & Crackers” featuring Cale Thibaudeau on banjo and harmonica, and “A Winter Away” featuring Cale Thibaudeau on harmonica. Mastered by Joe Frankland (aka Slackeye Slim).
Thirteen songs of gothic country, inspired by mortality, the Book of Revelation, and the dark side of love.
Ranked the Number 1 most essential gothic country album of all-time by the music blog Swedish Embassy of Gothic Country in March 2015. Not sure I agree, considering the other bands on the list, but I’m humbled and honored nonetheless.
Released December 2006. All words and music written, performed, and recorded by Christian Williams; album cover art by Paul Rhyne.