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Don Williams

Reflections – 2014 (Sugar Hill)

Reviewed by Kevin Oliver

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CDs by Don Williams

Listening to Don Williams is like putting on that old flannel shirt you've had since your college days; it's a comfortable fit, soft and reassuring without looking too much like something your dad might own. Williams' style of country music isn't much in fashion these days, but it carries a bit of a timeless quality with it - like George Strait, this new album could have come out any time in Williams' career.

Some of that is due to the sympathetic ears of his longtime producer Garth Fundis, but mostly it's because Williams has one of the most recognizable voices in country music. It's not just his stature, but his big baritone that earned him the "Gentle Giant" nickname, after all.

Like most modern era country singers, Williams has always been reliant on Nashville songwriters for his best material, but he throws a bit of a curveball here by including a couple of songs that are well known from other artists already. Opening track "I'll Be Here in the Morning" comes from the catalog of the late singer-songwriter Townes Van Zandt, but it fits Williams' fluid voice so perfectly it almost makes one forget about the myriad other versions out there. "Sing Me Back Home," likewise, comes via Merle Haggard, but the story arc dovetails nicely with classic Williams material such as "Good Old Boys Like Me".

The remainder of the tunes are not filler, as there are cuts from Guy Clark ("Talk is Cheap"), Jesse Winchester ("If I Were Free"), and Steve Wariner ("The Answer") among the usual songwriting mill material. Whatever he's singing, Williams sells the song and the story like the seasoned pro he is; too bad more of the current country crop can't take some lessons in humility and how not to over-sing a song from him.