PRESS

A singer-songwriter from Ranburne, Ala., near the Georgia state line, Willem Maker worked alone to make Agapao (Makerworks), his third album, singing and playing all guitars, as well as bass, piano, drums. He got a brilliant illustrator, Christoph Mueller, to decorate its cover. He released it in April as a limited edition of 1,000, and you can download it from his site, Makerworks.com. Do it. He’s so ripe it’s ridiculous. Instead of ups and downs, ballads and rockers, Agapao is a weirdly intense party, 15 songs of sophisticated southern-rock trance music, composed with open-tuned guitar and boot heel, adjoining blues and country and heterophonic gospel music. It seems as if he’s making up episodic songs on the spot, tucking shouts and grunts into secret places, creating new riff sections that aren’t necessarily repeated. New York Times

The best country rock singer-songwriter from East Alabama who you have never heard of … What we’ve got now in Willem Maker is a guy who’s ready and knows his own aesthetic up and down. Roughly, he makes southern rock. It’s not virtuosic. It’s more like the North Mississippi single chord style, but it rolls and it’s got some pop instincts and depth. He shouts, basically like a southern preacher, which is something we’ve heard an awful lot of — from gospel singers to Colonel Bruce Hampton to Tom Waits — but he’s very rhythmic with his voice. He’s using it as percussion as much as anything else. I’m gonna put Agapao on my shelf next to the great one man recordings, where one person plays all the instruments. Next to Stevie Wonder’s Music of My Mind. Next to Todd Rundgren’s Something Anything. And also, I’m gonna put it next to a couple of Rolling Stones albums, Sticky Fingers and Goat’s Head Soup. I think this record shares the same kind of emotional world as those records. New York Times : Popcast Song of the Week

For Willem Maker, life’s questions, hells, art forms and ecstasies are all bound to the recording studio … the southern songwriter has completed a trilogy of records with his finest LP to date … the instrumentation can grow as husky as Maker’s vocals. He has a lot to raise his voice above, and it’s his own doing: Willem Maker recorded and played every instrument on Agapao, a detail that not only enhances its grandeur — sometimes massive and cacophonous, other times serenely powerful — but explains the crossroads at which the creator now finds himself … mystic blues and gospel … his most intricate and ambitious studio record. Hash

NEW MOON HAND

Tempest-tossed slow rock and country blues, played in shimmers and drones, grunts and hollers, by a young but old-sounding southerner. Fans of “Beggars Banquet” and Charley Patton, take note. New York Times

There are moons and ruins in Maker’s head and he’s a man who sings as if he were trying to summon the greatness out of all of us - giving us these devastatingly sweet and hearty songs about wilting shadows and wilting love, heavy hearts and the kind of solitude that actually keeps a man company more times than he’d ever be wont to admit before a crowd of people. Daytrotter

Fat Possum has taken its fair share of criticism for moving away from the music that helped establish the label — the Blues — to release anything ranging from indie guitar to electronic music in recent years. However, the label’s founders regained some kudos with us in 2009, supporting the heart-tugging and gut-wrenching second album from Willem Maker. The label has returned to its roots and is once again bringing to the attention of a wider listening public the music of an artist so nearly lost to us. Blues Matters

Singer-guitarist Maker forges a muddy sort of electric-blues that carries in its bones the raw emotionalism of a deep-thinking Deep South musician who suffered 10 years with toxic metal poisoning (hear his breathtaking “Lead & Mercury”). He’s plenty self-conscious and all the better for it, singing lyrics of rare imagery with an inimitable voice that suggests a small mass of acrid phlegm is lodged in the back of his throat. This Alabaman, in his 30s, benefits from the ferocious musical clarity of his free-spirited friends, among them Mississippi hill country drummer Cedric Burnside and strings specialist Alvin Youngblood Hart. Downbeat

Mr. Maker seems strangely familiar, and even more strangely good. He sounds older and wiser than he is … sort of like Tom Waits without the hobo shtick. He sings in an imposing growl, biting off the ends of his rural rhymes, and his songs are rough and beautiful, somewhere between blues, country-rock and hymns. New York Times

OK, stop what you’re doing. Seriously, right now. Stop. Sit down. It’s not often I get unequivocal here, but I’m going to tell you that you owe it to yourself to listen to Willem Maker. New Moon Hand is the oasis of contemplation and harsh beauty that you need to banish the cares of the day, fifty-minutes of rootsy blues craftmanship that will take you away from it all and make you glad for the experience. I’m not kidding; this is an amazing album … It’s rare to find a promo blurb that delivers its promise, but the press release here suggests that you can hear the wild open spaces of Maker’s youth in his music, and you can – the unhurried pace, the subtleties of light and shade, the way he delivers his lyrics in little rhythmic bursts, all combine to paint a picture of the American South that is a far cry from the tired ironies and stereotypes of the hipster-roots set … Go buy this album; if you honestly don’t like it you can mail it to me with the receipt and I’ll buy it back off of you, just so I have the opportunity to gift it to someone with enough heart to appreciate it. The Dreaded Press

The opening 30 seconds of this album’s first track sets up a tone that it replicates for the next 50 minutes. The ghostly, stomping beat and skeletal guitar are gradually joined by Willem Maker’s gruff, Waylon Jennings-styled voice, rumbling about life’s heavy load. It’s a dark, ominous, but not depressing sound that amps up with growling electric guitars on the second track as Maker’s lowdown groove thickens. There’s an ornery and bluesy thread, somewhat similar to that of R.L. Burnside and his fellow Deep Southern contemporaries, that cuts like a jagged rusty blade. Credit Bo-Keys member Scott Bomar, a veteran who has worked with the similarly styled Jack-O, for production and mixing that keep the sound dangerous yet not as primitive as it might be in less skilled hands. There’s also a Tom Waits vibe that runs through the set, especially when Maker strips down to stark piano on the broken “Saints Weep Wine.” He’s accompanied by sympathetic musicians who include Alvin Youngblood Hart, Cedric Burnside, and the legendary Jim Dickinson, but the album’s notes do not delineate who plays on which track, a frustrating omission. Maker stays in his buzzing swamp mode throughout, rocking out like ZZ Top after a long night on the stuttering, driving “Old Pirate’s Song,” followed by the blustery “Lead and Mercury.” The latter is an angry autobiographical song about his near fatal poisoning from the titular toxic elements he inhaled as a young adult because of a tainted environment. Not surprisingly, it’s as raw and infected as it sounds, with what seems like Hart’s hurricane of a guitar solo twisting with portentous electric piano as Maker spits out irate lyrics such as “stole my youth” for six minutes of intensity that will leave the listener shaking. The ethereal, churchlike ballad “Rosalie” closes out the disc, tearing the sound down to just organ and floating, near free-form guitar. It maintains the menacing mood yet softens the blow as Maker strums in a minor key, stumbling and staggering in the creepy introspective shadows he creates. Allmusic

Maker’s voice growls and roars in a primitive style … not a million miles away from some of Dylan’s recent forays into songs rooted in the Mississippi mud … brimful of southern gothic imagery … An acoustic guitar coda however gives one the impression that Maker believes in some form of redemption and hopefully, eventually, some form of peace. Americana UK

When he hunkers down on guitar (as he does nearly all through his new album), the garage-folk blues of Alabaman Willem Maker is near narcotic. Maker hits the strings hard on New Moon Hand taking his beautifully poetic lyrics and roughhewn voice to gut-grabbing heights. Be it singing about the lead and mercury poisoning that decommissioned him for a decade or the mesmerizing slide work on “Black Beach Boogie,” Maker proves a new force to be reckoned with. WRIU

Given his sinister backstory, there were few career paths, other than that of the gruff, contemplative blues singer, which were realistically available to Willem Maker. The Skinny

Willem Maker has the right voice for this music, a laid back, smoky take on the blues. His slightly laboured drawl and short delivery drifts silkily over the exemplary guitar work … Maker is another man worth watching on the ever reliable Fat Possum label. Penny Black Music

Southern blues cred with guests Jim Dickinson, Cedric Burnside and Alvin Youngblood Hart. But this isn’t standard 12-bar slide, riff ’n’ roll fare; the gruff-voiced Doggett’s taste for the weird and swampy places him closer to Memphis. Pasadena Weekly

A singer/songwriter whose Southern heritage merges in his music with the rougher edges of more contemporary rock sounds. Buzzine

Steeped in the sort of raw blues on which Fat Possum built its name (particularly in Maker’s aching, rough-hewn vocals), yet it also contains enigmatic songwriting that nods to more primordial music forms while looking foward. Maker clearly calls to mind Tom Waits, yet there’s a sincerity and exposed-nerve honesty to these songs that moves them well past mere imitation or even tribute. Muze

Swamp music, that’s what this is. Jim Dickinson

Non-ironic roots Americana blues from a gravel-throated angel; the most beautiful and soulful record I’ve heard so far this year. Buy it. Outshine

STARS FELL ON

Poetic garage-rock-and-blues … pastoral portraits of rebirth and renewal in the isolation of rural life with a style that suggests influences from Charlie Patton to Crazy Horse … songs about transformation and living a life outside the lines … certainly encourages comparisons to the garage-rock of the White Stripes or the Black Keys, [but] the lyrics dispense with the familiar riffing on the blues form.  Willem Maker presents garage-rock with a self-referential modernist poet as lyricist. No Depression

Of late Fat Possum has gotten into the reissue business. Not reissuing lost nuggets from the 50’s or even pre-war blues mind you, but instead lost classics from the past year or so. First there was the reissue of AA Bondy’s terrific solo debut and now the reissue of Willem Maker’s self released record Stars Fell On. “Red As A Rose” is a trance blues number that should appeal to fans of Charlie Parr and William Elliott Whitmore. It’s a bit busy in parts, but when the fog clears and you get Willem’s possessed vocals and incendiary guitar it’s pretty special. Songs:Illinois

Fat Possum has a genius for finding unknown musicians on tractors, as with the late Asie Payton or, in Willem Maker’s case, in an Alabama cabin where he has been anonymously making music for years. And how refreshing it is in this day of proud ignorance, which usually manifests itself in remarks like “Well, I just write from the heart, you know,” to read an interview by an artist that begins with a quotation from poet Mary Oliver. Maker’s album Stars Fell On is comprised of hard-rocking, bluesy tunes that could have only come from a home recording [from Turkey Heaven Mountain, in Alabama]. Nashville Scene

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    MAKERWORKS Box 555 Ranburne AL 36273 USA

    info(at)makerworks(dot)com