Williamsboy offers musical simplicity

Matilda Swartz

Performances at Milkboy Coffee are usually hit or miss. There are those performers who seem to be trying too hard and others are not trying enough. Certain performers have the singing chops, but their lyrics may be recycled. Sometimes the strumming is prime, but the voice seemingly strains to creep up into upper octaves.

Occasionally, though, the bed is just big enough and the bowl of porridge is just the right temperature. Friday night was one of those times.

The credit goes to Matthew Williams, a Maine-native quadruple-threat: singer, songwriter, guitar player and harmonicist.

Known to play sometimes solo (under the alias Williamsboy) and other times supported by the Williamsboy Band, Friday night he found a happy medium with himself and percussionist Charles Kline at his right.

Looking all forms of a Main Line Dylan or a more youthful Springsteen with the harmonica lying contently in a neck brace, Williams was there for the sole purpose of playing.

The 30-year-old Williams has been performing professionally for over 15 years, showcasing in easily recognizable venues such as the Trocadero, World Café Live and the House of Blues.

With gigs like that under his guitar strap, it is nice to know that he still makes time for free-admission shows in little ol’ suburbs of Philadelphia.

Unlike other Milkboy performers before him who, either due to a degree of stage neurosis or overconfident charisma, go on five minute rants about life and various audience members between songs, Williams limited his speaking to the announcement of song titles.

The night was filled mostly with songs off of his first album “Roads,” released last spring on Dirt Floor Records.

Let it be known that the song titles, being no more than two words, never gave away too much. The songs told the story you wanted to hear.

Sitting in Milkboy’s always-comfortable velvet furniture, it was easy to lose yourself in Williams’ gritty vocals and lines from handwritten ballads like “Troubles,” “Roads,” “Hold On” and “Stay.”

His words and his phrasing are minimalistic; Williams is privy to the fact that sometimes all it takes to trigger a crowd response is a chorus hook consisting of “Stay, stay a little bit longer” and a nice riff to back it up.

A hat must go off to the accompanying Kline, who alternated playing various little percussion instruments and banging on a box drum.

Despite the obvious fact that there were only two men up on the platform, anyone not present in the room could have been fooled by the fullness of sound.

Between Williamsboy’s set list and the setting provided by Milkboy, the night was nothing short of smooth. Williams is a simple guy who writes simple songs and simply wants to play his guitar.

In not only a music world, but a real world full of hang-ups and exaggerated woes, it is never short of refreshing when a voice comes along who can say the 30 words you were thinking in only five.