Paul Williams & The Victory Trio - Just A Little Closer Home

Rebel Records

Mandolinist/singer Paul Williams didn’t compose “Living The Right Life Now,” the opening song on his great new CD Just A Little Closer Home, but it could be almost biographical.

Williams was a key member of Jimmy Martin’s landmark Sunny Mountain Boys band in the late 1950s and early 1960s (along with a talented young banjo player named J.D. Crowe). But, by 1963, he had wearied of secular music. Then, in 1995, he reemerged as a superlative performer of bluegrass gospel. His album Old Ways And New Paths was nominated in 2000 for a Grammy award in the category of Best Southern, Country or Bluegrass Gospel. His latest release is a beautifully realized collection that should attract a wide audience.

Williams’ voice remains astonishingly pure, like that of a church choir boy. His backing group, the Victory Trio, has expanded and its members are all fine: Don Moneyhun (low tenor and lead vocals; guitar), Adam Winstead (baritone vocals; rhythm guitar), Jerry Keys (bass vocals; banjo), and Susie Keys (acoustic bass), plus guest artist Kevin Jackson (fiddle). Williams himself deserves praise for a clean mandolin style that is as engaging and enjoyable as his singing.

Williams wrote the Jimmy Martin gospel classics “I Like To Hear Them Preach It” and “Prayer Bells Of Heaven.” Although he didn’t write any of the songs on Just A Little Closer Home, he still has a golden ear for material. Among the many standout tracks on this album include Moneyhun’s “I’ve Been Set Free,” Key’s “There’s Still Time,” and the inspirational “Someone Made The Sandals Jesus Wore” by Tom T. and Dixie Hall.

Paul Williams could lay claim to being one of the greatest bluegrass gospel performers of all time. Being a modest man, he probably wouldn’t say that. But, I will, because it’s true. (Rebel Records, P.O. Box 7405, Charlottesville, VA 22906, RDS