There is currently a real surge in the folk-rock scene on both sides of the Atlantic. One of the many offerings from the U.S is California-born Van William.
As with any burgeoning or resurging music scene, there is a lot of forgettable or banal efforts. Van William though, has a creativity and richness in his music that stands him in good stead in the increasingly popular scene.
A good mark of the quality of Van William is that the current queens of the genre, First Aid Kit, have not only selected him to support them on their European tour, but have also featured on one of his songs. The Swedish duo lent their gorgeous vocals for the recently released single, Revolution.
Revolution even made up part of First Aid Kit’s encore in the O2 Academy. The timely single slips nicely into the set, the two artist’s work shares a space musically so the two of them collaborating is an easy fit.
After a couple of false starts due to technical gremlins, Van William pulled out an excellent cover of Neil Young’s Cinnamon Girl. This was bracketed by his own work, the guitar in the impassioned Never Had Enough of You nodding heavily towards the peerless Young.
Van William is able to switch back and forth from the gnarly, overdriven guitar of Young-inspired songs to the soft and twinkling Cosmic Sign. Every one of his songs is drenched in feeling and he clearly has a lot invested in them.
He cites Neil Young and Kurt Cobain as his musical heroes. When listening to his music it’s easy to detect the influence through his willingness to make music that has a pop mentality in its catchiness, but to then slightly twist and warp that work, ultimately making it more interesting. There are streaks of the likes of Tom Petty and Beck too.
I’m not for a second suggesting that Van William is on the same level in any way to the aforementioned legends but the ability to inhabit a genre and yet creep out into other genres and borrow components for their own work is a trait they all share.
Credit to First Aid Kit for taking Van William as their support and showing him off to those in need of hearing him. Credit Van William for creating interesting and heartfelt music. He deserves every success.
reviewby Luke Hawkins