Review by Matt Watroba in Singout! Magazine, Winter 2004 Vol. 47 # 4
When Jack Williams plays, he plays all. out His voice soars and cracks, his guitar strings bend and snap and the driving rhythm of his right hand on the steel strings creates something that sounds like blues, country. rock and soul. That’s just one guy and a guitar!
An insatiable traveling performer and prolific songwriter, Jack Williams has released two recordings simultaneously- one live and one from the studio.
“Walkin’ Dreams” is a fascinating collection of 13 original songs that favor the theme of honoring friends and heroes. It opens with an infectious tribute to blues man and nightclub singer Josh White and continues with musical nods to the late Al Grierson and Mickey Newbury. Jack’s rare gift of turning stories into songs is evident throughout this CD.
I was listening the day Jack called up the NPR show Car Talk and let go his woes of car dependence and ignorance. if you missed it, the story is told here in hysterical detail on “Me And My Automobile” with a cameo appearance by, none other than, Click and Clack themselves.
“Live and in Good Company” combines some of Jack’s standards like “Mama Lou” with some great covers of Mickey Newbury, Chuck Brodsky. and a hauntingly convincing re-creation of “Long Black Veil.” These were recorded both live in a Nashville studio and at the International Guitar Festival of Great Britain. The performances are high spirited and .soulful. I was especially blown away by Jack’s song “Outlaw’s Dream.” This lament would have fit perfectly into the repertoires of Patsy Cline or Marty Robbins. Jack nails it.
Listen to these two recordings and you will get a sense of why Jack Williams is among the most respected songwriters and performers on the circuit today.
Excerpt from an interview by Stephen Ide in The Patriot Ledger
…His two new CDs, “Walkin’ Dreams” and “Live & In Good Company” on Folk Era’s Wind River label…are unabashedly Williams – pure, emotive guitar picking, weathered sliding baritone/tenor vocals in deftly crafted songs that draw from many styles and from his many years as a performer.
Add a pinch of self-deprecating humor, which makes Williams instantly endearing.
The songs on his new CDs include dedications to admired folk singers, from the reverent “A Natural Man”, about Josh White Sr., to a comical romp about Al Grierson, “In the Texas Sky”, in which the singer’s ashes are mistaken for nose candy.
In “Shoeboy’s Son”, Williams shows admiration for former slave George McJunkin, who eventually discovered the fossil remains that proved humans existed during the Ice Age.
With backing from a white gospel quartet, Williams decried hatred in the anger-laden “Mr. Cherry”, about the 1963 church bombing in Birmingham, AL, that claimed the lives of four black children.
On the lighter side, he sings of how he is an “automotive doofus” and of the joys of cat companionship in “Micky’s Song”…Williams paints a musical landscape. In “Big Muddy”, he sings to rollicking guitar licks of the desolation along the Mississippi River.