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GENTLE GIANTS —THE SONGS OF DON WILLIAMS (Slate Creek Records)

 

www.slatecreekrecords.com

  

Now here is a welcome surprise, a tribute to country music’s gentle giant, Don Williams; a man who spearhead a greater interest in country music on these shores during the mid-late 1970s, and early 1980s through a series of hits on the UK pop charts, and countless tours. He was to many, the man! His legendary performances at Mervyn Conn’s International Country Music festival at the old Empire Pool in Wembley gained folklore status, the fond memories became embedded in the heart and soul of his fans. As they would patiently wait for him to remove his ever present Stetson. Talking of fans, those on the tribute are all real fans of Williams.  

 

Produced by one of the men who often worked with him, Garth Fundis (Allen Reynolds was the other source) you have eleven of his biggest songs, although, for some reason “I Recall A Gypsy Woman” failed to make the cut.

The performances are superb throughout. Fundis does a fantastic job producing this record, and he allows the artists room to work the songs to a form best suited to them. I could not pick a weak one, but plenty of outstanding versions. One of the songs, “Amanda” in fact is a live recording, fittingly at the Grand Ole Opry. Performed with grit by Chris Stapleton with his wife, Morgane on harmony vocals plus J.T Cure (bass) and Chris’ acoustic guitar and that is it. Little wonder Williams was greatly moved, and humbled when he first heard the record. Another understated and extremely notable song is Jason Isbell and Amanda Shires’ recording of Townes Van Zandt’s “If I Needed You”. While John Prine complete with the man he wrote “Love Is On A Roll” Roger Cook (both are in fine voice) they ease through the cheery tune with a smile. Hearing this prompted me to recall Cook making a record many moons ago (1980s).

Others of exceptional note include Trisha Yearwood with “Maggie’s Dream” (she really places her own imprint on the song, hearing this makes me realize what a wonderful singer she really is), Dirks Bentley who like many of the artists on the record, he buries himself almost out of sight into “Some Broken Hearts Never End”, Alison Krauss “Till The River Run Dry”), Pistol Annie via a eye-opening “Tulsa Time” and Brandy Clark with a classy version of “I Believe In You”. Plus the trio, Lady Antebellum come through with a terrific version of “We’ve Got A Good Fire Goin” and you still have Garth Brooks to place himself in the picture for “Good Ole Boys Like Me” and bluesman Keb’ Mo’ via the jaunty, slide guitar etc aided “Lord I Hope This Day Is Good”.

  

I have rarely heard a bunch of artists perform with such outstanding stature on a tribute album. Each and every song is a special performance in its own right! It is also a fine tribute to the songwriters involved Danny Flowers, Dave Loggins, Bob McDill, Lisa Silver, Dave Hanner, Wayland Holyfield, Townes, Prine, Cook and Williams. Recommended.     

                                                Maurice Hope  

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Year 2016

1
Levi Parham
90 pts.
These American Blues
Music Road Records
GC,JBO,TK
2
Martha Fields
86 pts.
Southern White Lies
Independent
BP,BH,FB,JAB,RW,SP
3
Carter Sampson
75 pts.
Wilder Side
Independent/CRS
AN,CRS,JB
4
Anna Elizabeth Laube
65 pts.
Tree
Ahh...Pockets! Records
DH,NC
5
Michael McDermott
60 pts.
Willow Springs
Pauper Sky Records
BK,MM
6
Shovels & Rope
54 pts.
Little Seeds
New West
 
7
Robert Ellis
53 pts.
Robert Ellis
New West Records
DHO
8
Sturgill Simpson
52 pts.
A Sailor’s Guide to Earth
Atlantic Records
JJ,JF
9
Douglas Greer
50 pts.
Baja Louisiana
Zilker Park Records
HDB,ML
10
Lucinda Williams
46 pts.
The Ghosts Of Highway 20
Highway 20 Records
EM
11
Buddy Miller & Friends
44 pts.
Cayamo Sessions at Sea
New West Records
 
12
Wink Burcham
43 pts.
Cleveland Summer Nights
Continental Song City
 
13
Eric Brace & Peter Cooper
42 pts.
C&O Canal
Red Beet Records
BR
14
Brent Cobb
41 pts.
Shine On A Rainy Day
Elektra Records
HH
 
Daniel Romano
41 pts.
Mosey
New West
CVL
 
Leonard Cohen
41 pts.
You Want it Darker
Sony Music
HO
17
Christian Kjellvander
40 pts.
A Village: Natural Light
Tapete Records
BM
18
Drive-By Truckers
39 pts.
American Band
ATO Records
AR,EZ
19
Birds of Chicago
38 pts.
Real Midnight
Five Head Entertainment
LM,SZ
20
John Prine
37 pts.
For Better, or Worse
Oh Boy Records
FS,MB
21
The Cactus Blossoms
36 pts.
You’re Dreaming
Red House Records
GS,HD
22
Richmond Fontaine
35 pts.
You Can’t Go Back
Décor Records
FCE
23
Gillian Welch
34 pts.
Boots No.1: The Official Revival Bootleg
Acony Records
LK,PR,TJ
24
Sarah Jarosz
33 pts.
Undercurrent
Sugar Hill
RM
25
Joe Purdy
32 pts.
Who Will Be Next?
Mudtown Crier Records
AL
 
The Devil Makes Three
32 pts.
Redemption & Ruin
New West

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