NEW CD REVIEW
Going My Way – Johnny Williams
Mountain Roads Recordings
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 Mid Atlantic Textiles, bluegrass music performer, producer, songwriter, promoter, past 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 teenager, 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, judged the event twice, talent judge for SPBGMA and Galax Fiddlers Convention
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. In 2011 I went back to playing with Jeanette full time again. Also we tour some with "Louisa Branscomb Trio" as well as "Blue 58" with Stevie Barr and with Jay Shelton as "Shelton & Williams" and the "Larry McPeak Tribute Band". 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. As of now I have been included on 91 recorded projects. I also publish songs as Grass Tank Music Publishing, BMI. I currently record for my label Grass Tank Music. Entering our 30th year of touring Jeanette and I released the project "Thirty Years Later" on Grass Tank Music label 1n 2019. In July 2022 Shelton & Williams released our first project "So Much Time, So Much Love" on Grass Tank Music.
JOHNNY & JEANETTE WILLIAMS/Thirty Years Later: A singing bluegrass duo that’s kept it simple, direct and heartfelt all these years has been racking up the recognition almost under the radar all this time. Hitting that sweet spot where their sound is traditional but has no dust on it, it’s the kind of stuff you could listen to over and over all night long and wonder where the time went when you weren’t looking. Just plain tasty, I think I see some more awards coming their way in short order. (Chris Spector, 2019 Midwest Records)
Johnny & Jeanette Williams, Thirty Years Later (Williams 2018) Jeanette Williams has not received the notice she deserves as a top-level vocalist, her voice gliding effortlessly above the music while capturing the meaning of the words. Although Johnny has long been respected as a songwriter, Thirty Years Later only contains one song by each, drawing on a slew of strong writers plus a Jim Eanes cover. Musicians include some of the region’s best including Jody King and Scott Freeman. (County Sales, 2019)
Last Day of Galax - Johnny Williams
Mountain Roads Recordings
This project features six songs written by Johnny as well as three Songs he co-wrote with Tom T. and Dixie Hall. It featyres Johnny on guitar and vocals, Bill Hawks on fiddle, Jeanette Williams on bass and vocals, Chase Johner on mandolin, Tony Mabe on banjo, Amber Collins on vocals, Debbie Yeatts on clawhammer banjo, Kathleen O'Clnnell old time fiddle , Kenneth Berrier on steel guitar.