Album Review – Gentle Giants: The Songs of Don Williams

Gentle Giants could not be a more fitting title for this album of sweet country classics made famous by Don Williams. The singers on this record have covered these songs with a simple softness and together this album has enough charm to reach straight up to the heavens.

The return of the Pistol Annies was the main draw for me to this project. To hear these ladies sing anything is a joy. Tulsa Time has a great retro 70s riff and honky tonk rock style which compliments the Annies’ voices perfectly. There’s a little bit of laid-back sass here in the lyrics as well. We can but hope that this song might bring the band back together for album number three sometime soon.

Brandy Clark covers ‘I Believe in You‘ and while this song is of its time, the lyrics bring the minutiae of life into focus in a way that can only be found in country music. You can see the influence of this life-specific songwriting in Brandy’s own work and it’s obvious she grew up with this music. To return to what you heard as a child, what comforts you just makes her vocal performance even more engaging and authentic.

And maybe it’s the vintage origins of the songs on this album but even the Lady Antebellum and Dierks performances sound pretty good to me and I’m not usually a fan of either. Alison Krauss also delivers a beautiful performance of Till the Rivers all Run Dry and these songs prove that country singers singing country songs will always sound great, it’s just a matter of believing in the spirit of the song itself.

When Chris Stapleton sings his God-given talent takes your breath away and his version of ‘Amanda‘, live from the Opry, is no exception. What a treat to be able to witness this artist developing into a true superstar. Morgane Stapleton adds so much to his sound and I would love to hear her step forward at some point soon and record a solo album. But until then her and Chris will enjoy the pleasures of life in his hillbilly band, pushing forty, still wearing jeans. Light of our lives, indeed.

Written by Townes, If I Needed You is the kind of country duet that Jason Isbell & Amanda Shires are perfectly suited to sing. There’s a hell of a lot of potential in the way their voices compliment each other on this song and in their previous work. It’s kind of tragic really that country duets have gone out of style and since these two are our Johnny & June it would be great to hear a whole album of them singing together.

Trisha Yearwood is the standout performance here with Maggie’s Dream, and hearing a woman sing this song really brings it alive. Maggie has never been loved. It’s sad of course, but she gets on with things, as normal people do. She’s just a small town dreamer, she’s never been out on the highway, she’s never risked anything. The lights go down at the end of her shift and she goes home. The jukebox gives her some comfort and that’s about all she can hope for in this life. Sometimes it be that way. Trisha’s vocals and the slide guitar evoke Maggie’s poignant reality perfectly. This is what country music does best: telling the real story of people’s lives. It’s enough to make you weep.

There’s something comforting about the old fashioned feel of Gentle Giants. This album is produced by Garth Fundis and is affiliated with charity Musicares, who do some fantastic work. So set your watch back a little and enjoy this melodic meander through classics from time gone by.

3 thoughts on “Album Review – Gentle Giants: The Songs of Don Williams

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  1. Very enjoyable review! My brother and I listened to this album together, and his comments about Lady Antebellum and Dierks Bentley echoed yours. I like this bluegrassy side of Dierks so much better than most of his recent solo album work.

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