Flatt Mountain Records
The last time we heard from the Williamson Brothers on their excellent 2001 release Still Light Of The Evening, they were recording in two-track analog without overdubs, producing a sound that goes back to the early days of bluegrass recording. Twelve years on, only the method of recording (and the backing musicians, of which only banjoist Don Wright remains) seems to have changed. Their latest uses standard studio production techniques, and while that polishes the overall sound a bit, it takes nothing away from their traditional approach.
Tony Williamson is still one of the finest mandolinists going. His clarity of line and melodic sense come through time and again throughout the album. Gary Williamson, for his part, continues to impress as a singer, recalling the heartfelt style of Mac Wiseman, a style well-suited to the sentimental tunes that the duo often favor. Together, the harmonies of their duets, as on “I Miss My Dear Mother And Dad” or “I Live In The Past” to cite just two, can scarcely be bettered.
If one thing holds this recording back from the level of their previous effort, it is the strength of the material, particularly among the originals, of which none of the three here quite match the quality found on Still Light. The gospel tune “Over In The Sky” comes the closest, the other two being good-but-standard mandolin instrumentals. Among the covers and the traditional tunes are found “John Hardy,” “Wreck Of The Old 97,” “Don’t Let Your Sweet Love Die,” “Lonesome Road Blues,” and “Lamplighting Time In The Valley,” all deserving of their classic status, and all well-done, but too familiar to merit more than passing comment. Had there been a few stronger originals and a couple more lesser-known covers to go with Hylo Brown’s “Thunderclouds Of Love” and Charlie Monroe’s “Angels Carry Me Home,” it might have equaled Still Light. There is, however, much to enjoy here. (Mandolin Central, P.O. Box 728, Siler City, NC 27344, www.mandolincentral.com.)BW