The tagline on William the Conqueror's social media pages is “William the Conqueror is not what you might expect.” But, for American audiences at least, that is not entirely true. When you name your band after a 9th century warrior king and title your debut album Proud Disturber of the Peace, a certain level of raucous is expected. It may be more true for fans of the band's frontman in the UK, Ruarri Joseph. After walking away from a major label deal and some finely honed folk-pop that earned him a place at the venerable Glastonbury festival and opening dates on several major tours, the rough-hewn blues-rock that populates Proud Disturber of the Peace might take some adjustment.
Certainly there's plenty for fans of Joseph to hang their hats on. His beard may be shaggier than the look they're used to and the electric guitar filled with a lot more fat and dirty Memphis licks, but Joseph's croon is fully intact and the songwriting and instrumental skills of Joseph and band mates Harry Harding and Naomi Holmes are top notch.
Nowhere is Joseph's keen songwriter's eye more apparent than in the album's standout track “Pedestals”, which could serve as a declaration of independence for the man who walked away from stardom to pursue his own music his own way. Crooning “Some would say I'm beginning to crack, playing no regrets on twisted frets, with the sun on down on my crooked back”, he follows it up with the repeated chorus “don't build me up, you can't knock me down.”
On the other end of the instrumental spectrum is “Did You Wrong.” The up tempo blues burner is straight out of the Black Keys' playbook and serves as a jolt of electricity for the slower tracks on the album. Here Harding and Holmes are really able to shine, bringing a fullness to the song that sounds much bigger than a trio.
While William the Conqueror is still a bit of an unknown on American shores, he has already built some buzz in the Americana community as part of the UK chapter of the Americana Music Association's delegation to Nashville's Americana Music Festival. With a rock solid outing on Proud Disturber of the Peace, that notoriety should grow in the next year.