From Ohio by way of East Tennessee State University, Tyler Williams debuts with a pleasing and varied 12-song mix that includes four Mark Brinkman originals, a couple of standards, and several well-chosen covers. Though he plays guitar and piano and writes songs, Williams’ role here is largely that of lead singer, and to that he brings an engaging mid-range voice, slightly wizened at times, slightly bluesy at others, one that’s mature for his age.
As good as it is, Williams’ voice is still developing. His press notes indicate he’s been singing for years, and his tone and phrasing support that. There are, however, some minor glitches. While he handles Brinkman’s “Danville Prison Grave” or the crisp, traditional “Two Dollar Bill” with ease, his reading of Bill Monroe’s classic “Can’t You Hear Me Calling” is dotted with strained notes and phrases, particularly in the first verse. He didn’t attempt the falsetto line in the chorus, which was a good choice, but struggles a bit there as well. Elsewhere on the album, there are occasional long-held notes that are less than convincing. None of these glitches detract from the totality, and I wouldn’t mention them except that Williams has a wealth of talent and can probably accept the critique.
That talent shines best on the opener “Poor Man In Richmond” with it’s bright, better-day-coming attitude and also on his covers of Mel Tillis’ “Heart Over Mind” and David Parmley’s “Don’t Come Running.” All of those stand as highlights along with “Danville Prison Grave,” “Two-Dollar Bill,” and the gospel, guitar, and piano duet with Brinkman on “The God I Know.” Backing Williams are Tim Stafford, Aaron Ramsey, fiddler Ashley Davis, guitarist Colby Laney and bassist Danny Stewart. (www.tylerwilliamsband.com)BW