Thursday 30 June 2022
A different kind of guitar hero

She sits with her acoustic guitar horizontally flat on her lap. Then she makes the strings flutter, scritch, shimmer and clang. She uses both her hands – often with a melody and a counter melody at the same time – tapping and smearing notes on the fretboard or plucking them in unexpected places.

Sometimes she also places a kalimba (African thumb piano) on the guitar and plucks it while playing the guitar.

25-year-old Yasmin Williams conjures up worlds of sound with her sparse instrumental setup.

Just listen to her albums, and you’ll be amazed at how much sound she can make with just two hands.

On her latest album, Urban Driftwood (2021), the smooth fingerpicking flows with the ease and harmony of driftwood along the river (hence the title, maybe?), and emotions spill out of its riverbanks.

The album has been received with extremely positive reviews all over. It even landed on some end-of-year lists.

It is probably most amazing to experience the Virginia-based musician live on a stage. She adds another dimension to the title of ‘guitar hero’ (the video game Guitar Hero was in fact what made her pick up the guitar to begin with). She dazzles audiences with her own brand of fingerpicking, full of intricacy and natural grace.

When she played at the Newport Folk Festival in 2021, one media deemed her set “the biggest revelation of the festival.”

We recommend check out the Tiny Desk (home) concert she did for NPR. That shows you exactly what she’s made of.

There’s a lot of light and life still left in that old six-string.