Don Williams

Reflections

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Reflections is country singer Don Williams' follow-up to 2012's acclaimed And So It Goes, the album that marked his return from semi-retirement. He possesses one of the most languid and iconic voices to emerge from country music since Jim Reeves. No matter what he's singing, he delivers the lyric and melody from inside, as if revealing an experienced truth. Co-produced with economy and taste with longtime ally Garth Fundis, on Reflections, Williams takes on a number of canonical Americana and country songs. There are no originals here, but they weren't necessary. The opener is a startling read of Townes Van Zandt's "I'll Be Here in the Morning." In his clear, soft baritone, Williams' protagonist doesn't need to provide assurance to a nervous lover. He's not so much a rambler as one who loves the road on the other side of the window and what it offers; but he also knows it'll be there waiting. Mickey Rafael's harmonica offers the road's call to temptation, but the storyteller isn't swayed. He understands the language and appreciates it for what it is. A midtempo version of Guy Clark's "Talk Is Cheap" is buoyed by an electric piano and pedal steel. When he delivers the lyric, "...Get busy livin', or at least die tryin'..." it's not a command, but a gentle exhortation from the process of doing just that. Merle Haggard's classic "Sing Me Back Home" rings with all of the sadness and empathy of a relived memory. Rafael's harmonica, calls from the margins, reeling through years to that particular photograph in time. The singer doesn't treat this tune as a country nugget, but as a living, breathing account of a narrative, with an understated but present authority. Williams delivers a heartbreaking reading of Jesse Winchester's "If I Were Free," with help from the songwriter and Sonya Isaacs' mandolin. Other songs, including "Working Man's Son," "Healing Hands," "Back to the Simple Things," and Doug Gill's quiet anthem "Stronger Back," become as intimate as a kitchen table conversation. In the humble, mellifluous grain of his voice, Williams' gifts as an interpreter allow him to impart the poetry and wisdom in these songs directly, and in their own way, powerfully. At 74, he is in assured command of his voice, and better understands the deeper well it resonates from.

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