Williamson Branch Releases “Southern Nights”

Williamson Branch teams with legendary bluegrass multi-instrumentalist, singer, and songwriter Carl Jackson for a cover of Allen Toussaint’s “Southern Nights”. The track, originally composed in 1975, was a 1977 smash hit for country music icon Glen Campbell. Jackson played on the Campbell version, and Williamson Branch take their cues from Campbell’s cover. Williamson Branch’s treatment reinvigorates the Toussaint classic for modern audiences while remaining faithful to the spirit of Campbell’s version. Williamson Branch and Carl Jackson imbue “Southern Nights” with individual merits that make it far more than a paint-by-numbers regurgitation of a bygone classic.

URL: https://www.williamsonbranch.com/

It essentially adopts the same trajectory as the Campbell classic. The breezy pace of the performance never rushes its effects on listeners. The cut’s celebratory feel never gets too carried away, there’s always a measured hand on the wheel, but the buoyancy is impossible to ignore. Varying the instrumentation, bluegrass instead of pop country does give Williamson Branch’s version a distinct flavor. Jackson’s banjo has an arguably more prominent role than before, and the overall tone is far more rustic and steeped in Americana than Campbell’s version ever achieved.

The distinctive lilt of Melody Williamson Keyes’ lead vocals enhances the song’s melodic strengths. She’s joined by parents Kevin and Debbie Williamson, along with sisters Caroline Williamson and Kadence Williamson Reynolds. Fluid and seamless vocal harmonies define “Southern Nights”  as much as the deft instrumentation and help stamp Williamson Branch’s character on the performance. They’ve labored mightily to render their version in a manner faithful to Campbell’s hit, but it’s never overtly imitative.

Good covers shouldn’t be carbon copies. Talented singers or bands seek to bring their talents to bear and aim for transformation. It behooves any musical artist to ground their cover in the spirit of the original, without question, but everything after that is fair game. Williamson Branch refrains from weighing their cover down with any wasted motion. The two minutes and forty-five seconds running time presents “Southern Nights” in an ideal fashion. It’s reflective of the superb instincts that Williamson Branch brings to their recordings.


This family collective celebrates a decade of activity with this release. It’s fair to guess that “Southern Nights” holds special significance for each member. They carry on a hallowed tradition in bluegrass and country music circles, the family band unit, with great aplomb. It has earned them a growing fan following and a near-endless stream of critical accolades. They deserve each one.

“Southern Nights” won’t displace the memory of Glen Campbell’s smash hit from yesteryear. Williamson Branch never intends that. Instead, the band offers a personal and audience-pleasing take on a near-modern standard that proves the song’s timelessness while further illustrating Williamson Branch’s continued longevity. The last ten years are only the beginning.

We can and should expect them to remain an integral part of the bluegrass world over the coming decades. They overflow with time-tested virtues and their gifts are apparent on each recording. Williamson Branch’s “Southern Nights” is the latest feather in their cap and thoroughly satisfying.

Gwen Waggoner