Album Remarks & Appraisals:
Don Williams' legions of fans across the globe have long been hoping, but likely not expecting to hear new recordings from him again. He has been pretty determined to spend most of his time on his Tennessee farm, quietly, with his family - and for over four decades, country music's "Gentle Giant" has been known for doing what he wants to do. So it's both exciting and a very welcome surprise to announce the release of the brand new Don Williams album And So It Goes, on Sugar Hill Records on June 19th, his first since 2004. It is a release very much in the classic Williams mode - mellow yet rhythmic, life-affirming yet thoughtful, serenely masculine, and loaded with singularly strong, memorable songs and consummate vocals.
The recording emerges as a sonic whole, with Don's long intact working band at the core of the musicians behind him ("a beautiful thing," Don calls that), including celebrated guitarist Billy Sanford and percussionist Kenny Malone. Such long-time Don Williams admirers as Keith Urban, Alison Krauss and Vince Gill add both key instrumentals and vocal backing. "We weren't looking to reinvent Don," producer Garth Fundis notes, "just to make a good new Don Williams record." In that they have succeeded in spades, the instant return to form pleasantly surprising Don himself: "When we started back up again," he says, "it was like we'd never quit."
There's a maturity on And So It Goes that is evident throughout; a wise look at life from someone who's experienced it. On "Heart of Hearts," Don sings, Just listen to your life, it's talkin' to you, through the chorus with an ease and knowing that resonates. With an optimistic tone and a comfortable, laid back approach, And So It Goes delivers an honest look at what truly matters to Don at this point in his life and career.
Don Williams never fails to deliver. This new album is amazing, I'm so pleased he came out of retirement! His son Tim has contributed to some of the song writing, I'd expect no less from this family man. Other great artists feature too.
Even when he was at his hit-churning 70s and 80s peak, laconic country singer Don Williams sounded like a grizzled but tender old soul. Now that he is one, the "Gentle Giant" hasn't changed a whisker on his first album in eight years. Alison Krauss, Vince Gill and Keith Urban guest on backing vocals but they don't distract from Williams' key strength; his everyman, low key delivery and mellow tempo, stripped down songs. Tunes such as "I Just Come Here for the Music" exemplify the singer's homespun sincere simplicity which is the core of pure country music. At 10 tracks clocking in at about 35 minutes, it leaves you wanting more which, if you are new to Don Williams' bulging catalog, there is plenty of. And it all sounds just as easy rolling and honest as this.
There's a beauty coursing throughout the track list like a woodland stream bringing life to a meadow. It's irrepressible, undeniable even when the lyrics are heart rending. An honest listen leaves a sense that now maybe Don knows exactly what the world does with its good old boys, and that as winter comes there's beauty and quiet strength in the realization that the present threw its worst and somehow we're still here. The future stretches out ahead offering more lessons to learn and small things to bring wonder to calloused hearts. The past lies open behind us full of memories, of tears, of laughter and of love. It's all life, and if it's lived gently, lived truly, lived well... .it's more than enough. That, after all, is exactly how it goes.
The bass-baritone is still flawless, even in his 70s, while the songs just embrace the traditional melancholic furrow he's always ploughed with fiddles and slide and acoustic guitars gliding through tracks that never get any pacier than a gentle clip clop.
Billboard (p.28) - "A great return to form by one of the format's best-loved artists, showing how timeless his sound was -- and is."
Mojo (Publisher) (p.83) - 3 stars out of 5 -- "[I]t is Williams' ever-distinctive voice, allied to a line in unfailingly attractive material, such as 'Infinity' and the memorable title track, that provides this release with a patina of timelessness."
Mojo (Publisher) (p.85) - 3 stars out of 5 -- "[I]t's Wiliams' ever-distinctive voice, allied to the unfailingly attractive material such as 'Infinity' and the memorable title track, that gives this release a patina of timelessness."
Uncut (magazine) (p.85) - "Williams' horizontal approach makes for a refreshingly conversational set of songs, including 'I Just Come Here For The Music', a duet with longtime admirer Alison Krauss..."
Personnel: Billy Sanford (acoustic guitar, electric guitar, gut-string guitar); Mike Noble (acoustic guitar); J.T. Corenflos (electric guitar); Russ Pahl (steel guitar, dobro, banjo, mandolin); Pam Sixfin, David Davidson , David Angell (violin); Jeneé Fleenor (fiddle); Kris Wilkinson (viola); Anthony LaMarchina (cello); Tyson Rogers (accordion, piano, electric piano, organ); Sam Bacco (marimba); Matt McKenzie (upright bass, electric bass); John Gardner (drums, percussion); Kenny Malone (percussion); Chip Davis, Billy Davis, Garth Fundis, Tim Williams (background vocals).
Audio Mixers: Don Williams; Garth Fundis; Gordon Hammond.
Recording information: Craftworks; Minutia; Neptune Lane; Sound Emporium Recording Studios, Nashville, TN; The House.
Photographer: David McClister.
Unknown Contributor Roles: Robert Pratt; Tim Williams; Kristen Ohlundbender; Ann Fundis.
Returning from an extended semi-retirement that began after the 2004 release of My Heart to You -- a record that appeared on the little-known Compendia imprint -- Don Williams released the rather brilliant And So It Goes in 2012, an album so understated that it may be easy to overlook its excellence. Then again, if Williams has a signature, it's a touch so easy that it sometimes appears that he isn't there at all; he's never performing, he's inhabiting his songs. As the years rolled on and the tempos got slower and the productions softer, he could sometimes disappear into his surroundings, but And So It Goes achieves a nimble balance between comfort and virtuosity, an album where Williams feels entirely relaxed but never lazy. Supported by longtime producer Garth Fundis, Williams keeps things soothing -- nothing seems hurried or urgent, everything unspools at its own unhurried pace -- but nothing's too easy; there are love songs to be sure, but Williams also tackles bigger issues, pondering the meaning of "Infinity" and wondering "What If It Worked Like That." This balance of subtle spirituality and life experience has considerable resonance, particularly because it takes a little digging to get to the bigger issues. And So It Goes can be enjoyed as mere aural comfort food -- it's as welcoming as a warm bath -- but what gives it impact is its underlying, sometimes hidden, meanings. This may or may not be Williams' final album but if it is, it serves as a superb coda to a career that always found deep meaning in ease; it seems like anybody could do this, but if they could, somebody would have done it as well as Don Williams has by this point. Not only that, but Williams has not always done it as well as he does here. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine
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