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Saturday, January 31, 2015 |  Madison, WI: 23.0° F  Partly Cloudy
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For Aaron Williams, a life on stage seems too good to be true
The happiest bluesman
Williams, left, pays tribute to his father on the new release.
Williams, left, pays tribute to his father on the new release.
Credit:Jennifer Andersen

On Aug. 13, Madison blues band Aaron Williams & the Hoodoo will celebrate the release of their new album, 10:49, at the Harmony Bar. For Williams, it's a place that feels like home. "The Harmony really caters to Americana, roots, blues music," he says. "You can go there any weekend and see someone great. I've grown up seeing shows there."

It's fitting that the Hoodoo will release their second CD in a familiar, lifelong haunt. The new album pays tribute with its title track to Williams' biggest musical influence: his father, "Cadillac" Joe Andersen, with whom Williams performed for years. Observes Williams, "10:49 was the time of his death."

Williams says of the song, "It's celebratory. It's about a moment in my life when I realized it's time to be happy, time to let go of the things that bring you down."

Indeed, the song sounds like a precious insight. "It was 10:49 when I said my last goodbye," Williams sings, over wailing harmonica and slide guitar. "You closed your eyes, I finally opened mine."

The new album finds the band as devoted as ever to crafting strong "blues 'n' roll" tunes. The trio - Williams on vocals and guitar, Eric Shackelford on drums and vocals, and Z on bass and vocals - formed in Madison in 2008. In 2010, they won the MAMAs' Artist of the Year nod, and they've shared the stage with such formidable blues and rock performers as Jonny Lang, Taj Mahal and Los Lonely Boys.

"We tracked the new album live to try to capture the energy of our shows in the studio," Williams says. "We also wanted a live sound from song to song. It sounds more raw than our first album."

That live energy is what keeps bringing fans to Hoodoo shows - from regular gigs at the Brink Lounge to festivals and fairs around the region. "When you can see someone enjoy what they do, it works," Williams says of concertgoers. "Fans are so smart. They can read you like a book. I think our fans support us because we're not phony."

The blues are usually predicated on suffering, but Williams sounds like the happiest bluesman alive. "We've all been in bands for a while," he says of his Hoodoo collaborators. "We never fight. It seems too good to be true most of the time."

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