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.
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