Mountain Road Recordings
Johnny Williams’ most distinctive work on this, his second solo release on Mountain Road, comes in bunches—three separate bunches. The tracks in between are fine. Those in the bunches stay with you.
At track three, begins the first bunch. You can feel the shift immediately. Where his two opening tunes, both original, are pleasant enough, if somewhat ordinary in design and presentation, “Talking To The Moon,” a pop/country tune from Larry Gatlin, has a fresh melodicism that is instantly engaging. The melody line descends lightly, and Williams swings into it with his buttery and rich vocal style. He follows that by revisiting one of his own songs, “What You Gonna Do.” The drive and the lyrics are a great hook. Up next is the slow country of “Eleven Roses,” a song tailor-made for Williams’ range and delivery.
Skip ahead to track seven, “Dust In The Wind,” a big hit for the rock group Kansas. Williams manages to transform it into a wistful, mountain-tinged ballad while retaining the song’s distinctive conception. Hearing it performed bluegrass-style is one of those “of course” moments. Give Williams credit for recognizing that and for a great performance. A lovely reading of “The Prettiest Flowers” is next. It’s hard to go wrong with an Alfred Brumley gospel and Williams doesn’t.
Nor does he go wrong with the last bunch, his own “Ease My Worried Mind,” which walks the fine line between country and swing, followed by his up-tempo arrangement of “You Live In A World All Your Own.” Both of those send this recording out on solid footing. Backing Williams are his wife Jeanette on bass and vocals, fiddler/vocalist Nicki Williams, mandolinist Chase Johner, and banjoist Jason Davis. (Mountain Roads Recordings, 3192 Hwy. 421, Bristol, TN 37620, www.mountainroadsrecordings.com.)BW