Review: Don Williams – And So it Goes (Sugar Hill, 2012)
Luckily for his many fans, Don Williams’ 2006 retirement didn’t stick. His return to the stage is now followed by a return to the recording studio, and this first album in eight years. Even better than having a new Don Williams album, is having a new album on which his vocals still sound great. Not “great for a 73-year-old,” but great for a vocalist of Williams’ uncommon talent and vocal quality. Few are blessed with this sort of expressive tone, and while some may sustain their style, very few sustain the effortless control of their younger years. Williams does just that, easing into these ten songs with a confidence that draws you to the lyrics, characters and stories.
It’s been twenty years since Williams cracked the top of the charts, but he and long-time producer Garth Fundis still have ears for good songs. Longtime band members Billy Sanford and Kenny Malone recreate the magic of Williams’ earlier work, sidestepping the bombast of modern Nashville production. The arrangements deliver just enough drums and bass to give the guitars and fiddles a kick, but not so much as to distract from the singer. Williams picked songs with which he found personal resonance, rather than those he believed would be hits, and his trust in Nashville’s writers is rewarded. The songs don’t leap from the record with clever titles, intricate lyrics or operatic climaxes, but each provides an opportunity to spend a few moments with Don Williams as he optimistically considers truth and spirituality, internal strength and rekindled emotions.
A duet with Keith Urban on “Imagine That” shows just what an influence Williams has been on the Aussie country star; and if you listen carefully to the ballads, you can also hear where Garth Brooks picked up a good helping of style. Alison Krauss sings and plays fiddle on the hopeful “I Just Come Here for the Music,” and Vince Gill adds harmony vocals and his guitar to several tracks. This is a warm collection from a singer whose humble, unassuming style provides a welcome relief from commercial country music’s ever increasing grandiosity.