Where have you been Josh Williams? Nine years after his debut CD and six years after the second, finally comes release number three. And, Down Home proves to be worth the wait.
No, it’s not strictly a bluegrass recording. You know that from the cymbal splash behind the banjo kickoff in the opener, “Lonesome Feeling.” Drums continue through the track and on five others, as well. Pedal steel is used on three. Sometimes the result is straight country, as on the ode to the joys of an old picture album, “Kodak, 1955,” or as on the Carl Jackson penned title cut. Other times, the result is a country/bluegrass hybrid that adds a fresh twist to an old standard such as “Lonesome Feeling” or gives a bouyancy to Jimmy Martin’s “The Last Song” or to “Polka On The Banjo.” The best of these hybrids is “Streets Of Bakersfield.” Though it lacks a bit of the sauciness and energy of the Buck Owens/Dwight Yoakam version, Williams nails the bitterness that is the heart of the song.
The rest of the recording (about half) is bluegrass. The first of these, “Blue Railroad Train,” is a nod to one of Williams’ heroes, Tony Rice, with Rice playing the lead guitar and Williams handling the vocals, even using a few Rice vocal inflections in tribute. Williams then lets fly a brilliant performance of “Cherokee Shuffle,” on which he plays guitar, mandolin, and banjo, all in an authoritative display of melody and variation. A few tracks later, Tom T. Hall’s “We’ll Burn That Bridge” crackles with life, getting a boost from Aaron McDaris on banjo and Darrin Vincent and Jamie Dailey on harmony vocals. It’s one of 12 great songs that bring us full circle to the opening question.
Where have you been Josh Williams? Honing his craft behind this vibrant recording—that’s where. (Pinecastle Records, P.O. Box 753, Columbus NC 28722, www.pinecastle.com.) BW