Williamson Branch works in the classic tradition of bluegrass family vocal groups with the first-class accompanying instrumentation we expect from such acts. The family group has carved out a reputation as one of the pre-eminent acts in this genre over the past seven years and boast several high profile appearances at venues such as Dollywood’s Celebrity Theater, Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver’s Bluegrass Festival, and Bill Gaither’s Fall Homecoming, among many others. There will be more to come.

URL: https://www.williamsonbranch.com/

Their latest release, Very Merry Christmas, is the band’s fourth for Pinecastle Records and a marvelous representation of bluegrass’ continuing power to cast a spell over listeners. Williamson Branch kicks things off with the album’s title song that places listeners on familiar ground. Any longtime fan of the genre will feel at home with the group’s approach, appreciate their skill, and the song’s warm production.

Religious imagery and themes are rife throughout the collection. The album’s third song “Be Born in Me” doesn’t preach or proselytize, however, and builds delicate poetry instead. Vocal harmonies are a staple of the group’s musical presentation, but Melody Williamson stands out time and again and the group’s other members help her shine. This song highlights that like few others on Very Merry Christmas. There is more to come.

Williamson Branch shows some dexterity abandoning their bluegrass sound for the light rockabilly of “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree” featuring guest vocalist Johnny Fortune. It’s delightful and light fare, one of the album’s best moments of pure personality, and benefits from musical elements such as piano. “Silver Bells” is an elegant spot-on rendition of the Christmas classic using the group’s broad range of vocal talents. They play this one closer to the vest than some of their other takes on these classics and the comparatively conservative approach pays off for Williamson Branch.

The stunning vocal workout, sans instruments, of “Children, Go Where I Send Thee” is worth the price of purchase alone. You won’t likely hear anything like this from anyone else. Williamson Branch lays claim to being the best vocal group working today with their interweaving harmonies having a first take vibe you must hear to believe. It sounds off the cuff, even if we suspect it isn’t. As natural as breathing.

“Joy to the World” bluegrasses the Christmas standard with the right amount of verve, never losing its message, and the exultant spirit of the song hits home. One of the album’s most intelligent originals arrives with the later track “New Kid in Town”. It is careful and deliberate track musically with lyrics telling the story of Jesus’ birth in novel detail. The arrangement ranks, as well, among the album’s finest moments. Williamson Branch times every peak and valley with an attentive ear. “Sleighride” ends Very Merry Christmas with a jaunty bluegrass instrumental. Concluding the band’s first seasonal release with a performance showing off the band alone is a nice touch and ends the album on a memorable note. Williamson Branch has a winner on their hands with these songs and it deserves attention outside the bluegrass world. 

Garth Thomas