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Michael Williams flashes his broadened horizons on "Fire Red"

Michael Williams_photo by Carrie Robinson.jpg

When singer/guitarist Michael Williams moved to Seattle in 2001, the city’s music scene was a far cry from what it had been 10 years prior.

“It was like a gold rush had happened, and all the gold was gone,” he says with a hearty laugh. “There were some traces of grunge still around there, and they were slowly fading. I went there seeking something outside of the grunge scene, and that was musical freedom.”

Leaving Texas for Seattle in his early 20s wasn’t a random or impulsive decision. A few years prior, Williams’ father, longtime Austin musician Larry Williams (a.k.a. Junior Medlow), had died, leaving him in search of some inspiration.

So Williams went to Seattle, he says, “seeking Jimi Hendrix as sort of a guru of sorts, and I tried to open my eyes a little rounder than just the blues genre. I’m not saying by any means I tried to model myself after Hendrix; I felt like I could draw inspiration from him because he walked that path and was once there.”

He adds with a laugh, “I learned a lot while I was there, and I also learned that Jimi Hendrix left.”
These days, Williams — who is married with two children — calls Los Angeles his home.
“I try not to play too much around here,” he says. “I try to keep it for my family as kind of a refuge. That’s odd — keeping Los Angeles as a refuge.”

He’s not opposed to recording in Los Angeles, though. That’s where he made Fire Red, the second album credited to the Michael Williams Band. While blues serves as the album’s sturdy foundation, there are also R&B flourishes (the sweaty James Brown-style horns on the opening track, “Hey Baby”), a cool Latin-flavored/Spanish-language detour (the lively “Entre Tus Ojos”) and bona fide singer/songwriter fare (the John Mayer-ish “Dead and Gone,” the album’s closer).

Williams has nothing but good things to say about Fire Red producer Eddie Kramer, who first made a name for himself in the 1960s working with Hendrix.

“He was all over us: ‘You need work here; you gotta do this,’ “Williams recalls. “He would be in the room just as much as he was in the sound booth. He was heavily involved with the way things came out. We had a rough idea what we wanted to do, but when I was able to cultivate that relationship with him, I felt like I was reborn into a new musician.”

— By Chris M. Junior

Michael Williams Band on tour (schedule subject to change):

* Nov. 4: Union County Performing Arts Center — Rahway, N.J. +
* Nov. 5: Rams Head — Baltimore +
* Nov. 6: Symphony Hall — Allentown, Pa. +
* Nov. 9: State Theater — Portland, Maine +
* Nov. 10: Ridgefield Playhouse — Ridgefield, Conn. +
* Nov. 11: Moondogs — Pittsburgh #
* Nov. 16: Keswick Theater — Glenside, Pa. +
* Nov. 17: B.B. King Blues Club & Grill — New York ++
* Nov. 18: Hershey Theatre — Hershey, Pa. +
* Nov. 20: Midland Theatre — Newark, Ohio +
# solo show
+ with Buddy Guy
++ with Delbert McClinton

Photo by Carrie Robinson