Cotton Bell Continental Song City **** (4 stars)
"Given the plethora of American singer-songwriters, to stand out they have to be something special. Wisconsin native
Hayward Williams fits the bill to judge by this sparse, concentrated slice of thoughtful, folky Americana. Recorded
“on the crest of the coldest winter in recent memory”, the music has a huddled-down, blanketed warmth in which you
can almost hear the sparks of the fire as Dan McMahon’s electric guitar picks out notes against an acoustic guitar
backdrop in the evocative title track and Mockingbird. There are splashes of violin, viola, mandolin and pedal steel,
and hushed, tuneful voices to flesh out Williams’s rich, resigned tone. The eight songs (plus an unnamed extra), with
themes of recollection and reflection wrapped in simple, timeless melodies, are most impressive."
Americana-UK 8 out of 10
"Williams’ debut “Another Sailor's Dream” got a 9/10 review on Americana UK back in 2007. Four years in the making
this follow up ranks almost as high as he delivers a fine set of soulful, introspective songs with his deep baritone
trickling like honey throughout.
The album was recorded in a cold, cold winter in Milwaukee and there is a sense of huddling around a fire listening
to late night songs and tales. Backed by Dan McMahon and Shauncey Ali who provide all sorts of strings and things
the sound is lush with lashings of strummed acoustics sweetened with tasty pedal steel, violin and dobro. All that’s
missing is the crackling of a good wood fire.
"At times the overall sound is reminiscent of John Martyn’s ambient recordings, no more so than on the opening, title,
song which is a beautiful and hypnotic slink that has a swamplike, Southern feel around it. 'New Years Eve' is another
standout evoking wintery nights with stark, keening steel guitar cutting through the frost. The final song, 'Great Plains'
is another wintery tale which starts off with solo guitar and voice building up to a tremendous climax with female backing
vocals and the band showcasing their skills. A hidden track at the end with Williams’ guitar and voice only serves to
recall the Martyn comparison, gruff and sensitive at the same time with some fine guitar playing, a great way to end the album."
Rhythms Magazine. (Australia)
"Looking at the bespectacled youth peering out from the album bio, you would never expect the smoky authoritative voice that
swells from Cotton Bell. But maybe Williams' appearance belies his age, this being the Milwaukee singer-songwriter's third
full length album. Williams' is the voice of maturity and restraint, and by voice I mean not only his deep, resonant singing,
but his approach, attitude, songwriting - the whole deal. Full of gentle, tender songs beautifully recorded, Cotton Bell
presents nothing groundbreaking or startling. But the deeper you listen, the further you appreciate those sounds and songs.
Dan McMahon's guitar and pedal steel and dobro are consistently grace full and as a co-producer, he's clearly a crucial
ingredient to the impact of Cotton Bell. Strings and harmonies flesh out the songs beautifully throughout - Third track in
'Mockingbird' is a great example,just gorgeous to listen to, a breathtaking guitar solo, strings and harmonies swelling and
subsiding, and Williams' vocal melody glowing throughout."