As a child, the closest connection Karl S. Williams had to the Mississippi was that he grew up by a river. But it shaped his sound
K arl S. Williams has the blues, but he has had plenty to celebrate of late.
The 32-year-old musician made his Bluesfest debut earlier this month at the annual Byron Bay festival.
After blowing away crowds with three spellbinding performances, the troubadour will serenade his hometown with a gig at Miami Marketta tomorrow night.
The singer, who lives what he calls a simple life in the hills of Tallebudgera Valley, claims to be an authentic bluesman – and not just because he worked on a coffee plantation, as some of the American legends of blues once did.
Karl’s music ranges from piano ballads to banjo-driven foot-stompers, but all fall under the blues banner. He named his banjo Bettie Mae and his guitar Ida Belle after women in the songs of blues legend Robert Johnson.
“I call it blues and I know there is a certain stigma attached to that,” says Karl.
“But the blues for me is the feeling in the music more than the style.”
Karl switched on to blues music as a teenager while living in the small NSW town of Woodburn on the banks of the Richmond River, an environment he says drew him to the music of the bluessoaked Mississippi delta.
“I identified with it because I was in a rural town on the river,” he says.
“I felt there were a lot of parallels between Woodburn and the Mississippi delta.”
Karl cites Johnson, Son House and blues/jazz great Nina Simone among his influences. The singer hopes his three performances at Easter’s Bluesfest will help raise his profile in Australia.
“I had never even been to the festival before,” he says.
“Which has always perplexed me because I love blues. Playing it is a matter of life and death to me.”
Karl S. Williams was a hit with crowds at Bluesfest.