Williamson Branch: A Bluegrass Revelation

Photo - Williamson Branch onstage at the Horseshoe Bay Resort, April 2023

It’s Thursday and I’m breaking with our tradition — OK, that’s misleading; let’s call it a proclivity — of posting about several random and generally unrelated topics. Instead, I want to focus on one subject. We’ll return to our regularly scheduled programming at a later date. Probably. Possibly. Eh, who knows?

We traveled to West Texas last weekend, and in the process put 800+ miles on Debbie’s car in just over 48 hours. I may write more about that madness later. Three hundred of those miles came on Sunday as we wanted to be back in time for a late afternoon concert at the Resort, sponsored by Horseshoe Bay Cultural Enrichment.

Williamson Branch is a bluegrass band based in Nashville and consisting of five family members plus one additional instrumentalist. I guess you could say that they’re the smaller, bluegrass version of the von Trapp family. I wouldn’t say that, but you could…I think they’re way more entertaining than those Trapp kids.

The family has been performing professionally for almost a decade, although they’ve been singing and playing together since the oldest — Melody Williamson Keyes, age 24 — was a toddler. This article provides one of the most complete descriptions of the history of the family/band that I was able to find.

Photo: Williamson Branch performance at the Horseshoe Bay Resort, Horseshoe Bay, Texas - April 2, 2023
(l-r) Debbie (Mom), Kadence, Melody, Kevin (Dad), Caroline, Chad Darou

Our long drive back home on Sunday did not go unrewarded, as we were treated to an exceptionally enjoyable couple of hours. The family has an engaging stage presence, and every member is an accomplished musician. Their vocals feature the flawless tightness that comes from years of singing together as a family.

Melody is the “emcee” for the group’s stage performances. In 2020, she won the International Bluegrass Music Association’s (IBMA) Momentum Vocalist of the Year award, an honor given to young, rising stars who bluegrass industry leaders feel will have a long, successful and influential career. She plays guitar (as shown in the following video), but her forté is fiddle…and as Charlie Daniels said about Johnny, she “plays it hot.” The amateurish video (by me) at the bottom of this post proves that claim.

Kadence is the middle daughter, age-wise, and she’s a fireball on stage, as befits a bass player. How skilled is she? She’s a featured artist on Kala Music Brand Co.’s website playing their four-string acoustic/electric bass (check out the following video showcasing her talent, along with others in the band). However, for the Sunday performance, she played a five-string electric bass…which is, of course, 25% more difficult. Or something. Anyway, her performances are electric, pun intended. Kadence also has a beautiful voice.

Caroline is the youngest sister, and while she’s also a multi-instrumentalist and a terrific singer, she was featured on an instrument that I was unfamiliar with: the cajón box drum.

If you’re as unfamiliar with the instrument as I was, check out the following video which compares and contrasts the cajón with a traditional drum set. At eleven minutes or so, it might be overkill, but it really does highlight the versatility of something that’s more than it appears.

Chad Darou (DAH roo) is relatively new to the group (most of the videos in this post feature his predecessor), and he’s an exceptional player of all things stringed, especially the banjo, dobro, and mandolin. Chad is a successful recording artist in his own right (check out the iTunes Store for some of his projects), and he performed at the Grand Ol’ Opry as a twelve year old. What were you doing at age twelve? I was still eating paste, I think.

Chad’s new enough that he’s not shown on their current website, but here’s a video that showcases his instrumental talents.

I haven’t said much about Mom and Dad, talented musicians in their own right. They’re content to let the kids take the spotlight, and they’re obviously proud of them. The following video allows Kevin’s vocals to shine in a song that shows where the family’s strength and joy originate.

If it sounds like I’m a big fan of Williamson Branch…well, I’ve done a good job with this post, because that’s an understatement. I’m not sure when they’ll be back to Texas — it was apparently a big deal for them to come here in the first place — but if they do show up anywhere within, say, 300 miles of Horseshoe Bay, we might just have to take another road trip. Y’all would be wise to do the same.

As I mentioned at the beginning, here’s the group’s finale from the Sunday concert, clumsily videoed by yours truly. It won’t do justice to their musical talents, but it will give you a taste of the fun they have on stage (and in the audience).

Variations on The Orange Blossom Special

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  1. I have known this family for many years. They are the real deal. There is nothing fake or contrived about them. They love the Lord, love each other, and are great musicians.

    1. Janice, based on what little I know, I believe you are correct on every count. They made a lot of new fans here in Texas and we hope to bring them back. Thanks for checking in!

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