Paul Williams got his start playing mandolin with the Lonesome Pine Fiddlers and Jimmy Martin over 50 years ago. After retiring from professional music in 1963, he continued playing gospel music regionally. In the late 1990s, however, Williams' career got a jump start when he released a series of well-received albums. Living on the Hallelujah Side follows the same footpath, featuring a combination of traditional gospel singing and bluegrass picking. Williams is joined by rhythm guitarist Jeff Orr, banjoist Jerry Keys, guitarist Ned Cutshaw, fiddler Keith Williams, and bassist Susie Keys for a handful of old and new gospel songs. The straightforward arrangements offer just the right support for the material and help keep the spotlight on the vocals. Williams, Orr, and Cutshaw specialize in two- and three-part harmony, filling songs like "Whispering Hope" and the title cut with a "joyful noise." While Williams and company never deviate from the righteous path, they do mix other subjects with their gospel vision. "I'll Owe It to My Mother and Dad" pays homage to good parenting and traditional values, while "Liberty and Justice for All" expresses a deeply felt patriotism. For old fans, Living on the Hallelujah Side will be another fine entry in Williams' catalog. For anyone else interested in gospel music but unfamiliar with Williams, it will be a good place to start.
Share this page
AllMusic Review by Ronnie D. Lankford, Jr.