NEW CD REVIEW
Going My Way – Johnny Williams
John Lawless | December 30, 2014 | No Comments
[Going My Way - Johnny Williams] When the top traditional bluegrass singers are named, you expect to hear Larry Sparks mentioned, and James King. Perhaps Danny Paisley as well, and Junior Sisk. But a name you don’t hear often enough is Johnny Williams, who can throw down the lonesome with the very best of them.
There is sufficient evidence of that contention to convince anyone with ears on Williams’ latest album, Going My Way, on Mountain Roads Recordings. To my ears, it’s his best to date, and a serious contender to be considered among the best traditional bluegrass albums of the year.
Part of the reason is Williams’ doleful singing voice, which can take any song and give it a forlorn feel. Even his version of the Kansas mega-hit, Dust In The Wind, sounds here like a mountain ballad.
Part is his brilliant songwriting. I’ve had occasion to note in the past just how difficult it is to compose a new song that fits in the bluegrass or mountain music tradition so authentically that you could be forgiven for believing it to be 60 years old. This album opens with a perfect example on Johnny’s Sailor’s Regret, a truly lonesome story of an old man at sea.
Another part is the strong ensemble assembled to cut this project. The personnel is the same for every song, giving a legitimate band feel to the whole album. Jason Davis is on banjo, gnawing on each and every track as is his wont, driving the music forward with every beat. Chase Johner provides the mandolin, which is always note perfect. He dusts off his best Dempsey Young to kick off Ease My Worried Mind, another Williams original.
Jeanette Williams provides bass, but is only one of Johnny’s vocal duet partners on Going My Way. Nikki Wright, who also plays fiddle pairs up with him on several of the tracks, including his Stanley-esque What You Gonna Do.
Other notable cuts include Johnny and Jeanette singing a grassified version of Talking To The Moon, a hit for The Gatlin Brothers in 1986, Albert Brumley’s The Prettiest Flowers, and John Pennell’s Dark Skies, previously recorded by Alison Krauss.
Going My Way is a very strong project, sure to please anyone who favors the lonesome side of old time bluegrass. It is available on CD or download from the Mountain Roads Recordings site, and to DJs via Airplay Direct.
Born in: Fries VA
Live in: Danville VA
Profession: Salesman for Professional Rental Service, bluegrass music performer, producer, song writer, Chairman of the Blue Ridge Acoustic Uprising, owner Grass Tank Music Publishing
Other notes: Learned to ride on a goat named "Billy" when I was six that led to showing Tennessee Walking horses as a teen ager, played football, basketball and baseball for Tunstall High School many years ago, participated in worlds longest softball game in 1980 (90 hours) and in the Guinness Book of World Records, Co-founded the Dan River Region Bluegrass Association, won the Merlefest Chris Austin Songwriter Contest for bluegrass in 1998 &1999
and mandolin. The group later became Jeanette Williams & Clearwater then the Jeanette Williams Band. Around 2007 because of work schedule I joined the Big Country Bluegrass Band on guitar and played with them almost five years. In 2011 I went back to playing with Jeanette again. Also we toured some with Scott Freeman as "Freeman and Williams" trio and with Louisa Branscomb as well. I have been a songwriter for many years and been busy arranging and producing projects for other artist the past few years while filling in with other bands. I also publish songs as Grass Tank Music, BMI
I currently produce projects and record for Mountain Roads Recordings in Bristol TN. For past couple of years Jeanette, Stevie Barr and myself play dates as "Blue 58". Jeanette and I also play songwriter dates as a trio with Louisa Branscomb.