Jimmy Lee Williams, Hoot Your Belly

John Morthland

By John Morthland

on 04.22.11 in Reviews

Georgia soybean, peanuts and watermelon farmer Williams was recorded twice — in 1977 and 1982 — by folklorist George Mitchell, attracted little attention for the 13-song vinyl album that resulted, and then died in the early '90s. But if you like your blues direct and simple and drenched in country ways, you won't find a more likable disk than this reissue (only the title has changed) of Rock on Away from Here. The sing-songy tunes, which sound like they're being made up as he goes along, are good-natured dialogues between Williams 'rolling, repetitive electric guitar and his warm, declamatory vocals. They are hypnotic, often sloppy and utterly irresistible; sometimes he drops the words and just hums and moans. Though clearly the product of a big heart and a satisfied mind, it's not for everyone — what some welcome as hypnotizing, others might reject as boring. Yet albums this intimate, this graceful and this offhandedly accomplished are hard to come by.