One of country music's best and most understated ballad singers, Don Williams (1939-2017) was born near Lubbock, Texas but grew up on the Gulf, near Corpus Christi. During the 1960's folk boom, Williams formed the Pozo Seco Singers, a group that had crossover success on the pop charts and stayed together through the rest of the decade. Williams went solo in the 'Seventies, establishing himself as a soulful singer of contemplative songs, and particularly as the best interpreter of songwriter Bob McDill's material. In the early '80s, Williams broke through again with a career resurgence that made him a household name, and continued to record solid, well-crafted albums well into the 21st Century. Here's a quick look at his work.
Don Williams "The Best - Greatest Hits" (ABC-Dot, 1975)
Dot Records signed Williams in '74, and they didn't waste much time rushing this early best-of set out... But, hey, with songs like "Amanda" and "Come Early Morning" to work with, what's there to complain about? Modest by comparison to collections that would come down the road later on, but still some nice, classic material...
Don Williams "The Best -- Volume 2" (ABC, 1979)
Don Williams "The Best, v.3" (MCA, 1984)
Don Williams "The Best, v.4" (MCA, 1986)
Don Williams "Don Williams Sings Bob McDill" (MCA, 1986) (LP)
This is also a best-of, but since Bob McDill composed so many of Williams' most moving tunes, such as "Amanda" and "Good Ole Boys Like Me," the repetition is quite welcome...
Don Williams "Lovers And Best Friends" (MCA, 1986)
Another best-of set, though this time with a few previously unreleased tracks...
Don Williams "20 Greatest Hits" (MCA, 1987)
Don Williams "Prime Cuts" (Capitol, 1989)
A collection drawn from two albums on Capitol, New Moves, from 1987 and 1988's Traces, with a couple of unissued bonus tracks thrown in for good luck.
Don Williams "Millennium Collection, v.1" (MCA, 2000)
Don Williams "Millennium Collection, v.2" (MCA, 2001)
Don Williams "The Best" (RCA, 1995)
A good summation of his hits (and near misses) on the RCA label, from 1989-92. Includes one previously unreleased track, "Maybe That's All It Takes."
Don Williams "Anthology" (Universal/Hip-O, 2000)
Now, see, this is my kind of best-of collection...! This near-perfect 2-CD set tracks the career of country crooner Don Williams -- one of my greatest guilty pleasures -- from his early hits on the independent JMI label in 1972 to his surprisingly vigorous later work on RCA in the early '90s. It's an amazing set, which spans several labels -- MCA, RCA, Capitol, ABC/Dot and Warner Brothers -- and really does a good job showing the breadth of his career. The only thing missing is something from his early years as a folkie in the Pozo-Seco Singers, but as far as his country work goes, this anthology can't be beat. All of his best songs are included: "Amanda," "I Believe In You," "If I Needed You," the haunting "Good Old Boys Like Me" and dozens of other finely crafted gems -- most of them written by collaborator Bob McDill, whose quiet craftsmanship perfectly suits Williams' intimate, understated style. Williams is a softie, but his low-key style, with a small, stripped-down accompaniment, is just so damn good you'd have to have ears of stone not to get drawn in. This is really fine music... highly recommended!
Don Williams "Gold" (Universal/Hip-O, 2000)
Don Williams "Follow Me Back Home" (Orpheus, 2002)
Cheapie reissue of old Pozo Seco material...
The Pozo Seco Singers "Time" (Columbia, 1966)
Three Texans bit by the folk-pop bug -- Lofton Kline, Susan Taylor and Don Williams -- set out to crack the big time... They had a few modest hits, including "Time" and "I Can Make It With You," which kind of fit in with the folk-rock/sunshine pop vibe of the time... But they never really grabbed ahold of the big brass ring, and the band split up after a few years. It was, of course, the platform from which Don Williams launched his own phenomenally successful solo career...
The Pozo Seco Singers "Spend Some Time With Me" (Columbia, 1966)
Don Williams & The Pozo Seco Singers "Spend Some Time With Me" (Certron, 1967)
(Produced by Aubrey Mayhew)
Apparently, after the Pozo's fizzled out in the Pop arena, Columbia sold their contract to Aubrey Mayhew, owner of the Little Darlin' and Certron labels... The result was this album, which is a pretty woeful set of brash, clunky sunshine pop, covering the Beatles, Stones and Bacharach, with a few mildly contemplative acoustic moments that remind us that, oh yeah, these guys were sort of a folk group. None of it seems particularly inspired or subtle, although Williams did stand out as a talent that needs to move on to higher ground. The way Mayhew tells it, he was the one who encouraged Williams to go solo, and helped steer him towards Jack Clement, who struck gold with the first Don Williams' album, released on his independently-owned JMI label. To complete the circle, Clement later sold Williams' contract to Dot Records... And the rest is history. This album kinda sucks, though.
Don Williams "Volume One" (JMI, 1973)
Don Williams "Volume Two" (JMI, 1974)
Don Williams "Volume Three" (Dot, 1974)
Don Williams "You're My Best Friend" (Dot, 1975)
Don Williams "Harmony" (ABC-Dot, 1976) (LP)
Don Williams "Visions" (ABC-Dot, 1977) (LP)
Don Williams "Country Boy" (ABC-Dot, 1977) (LP)
Don Williams "Expressions" (ABC, 1978) (LP)
Don Williams "Portrait" (MCA, 1979) (LP)
Don Williams "I Believe In You" (MCA, 1979)
Don Williams "Especially For You" (MCA, 1981)
(Retitled Lord I Hope This Day Is Good for reissue on CD.)
Don Williams "Listen To The Radio" (MCA, 1982) (LP)
Don Williams "Yellow Moon" (MCA, 1983) (LP)
Don Williams "Cafe Carolina" (MCA, 1984) (LP)
Don Williams "New Moves" (Capitol, 1986) (LP)
(Produced by Garth Fundis & Don Williams)
...One of the new moves in question was, of course, the jump over to Capitol Records, which doesn't seem to have hurt his sound in any way. This is standard-issue Williams material, mellow, low-key, mournfully and shamelessly sentimental, and quite effective... One fine, understated song after another. If you were already a Don Williams fan, this disc will be no disappointment. Worth checking out.
Don Williams "Traces" (Capitol, 1987)
Don Williams "One Good Well/Just As Long As I Have You" (RCA, 1989)
Don Williams "True Love" (RCA, 1990)
Don Williams "Currents" (RCA, 1992)
Don Williams "An Evening With Don Williams" (American Harvest, 1994)
Don Williams "Borrowed Tales" (American Harvest, 1995)
Don Williams "Flatlands" (American Harvest, 1996)
Don Williams "I Turn The Page" (Giant, 1998)
Don Williams "Live - Greatest Hits, v.2" (RMG, 2001)
(Produced by Don Williams)
Don Williams "Silver Turns To Gold" (Row Music, 2002)
Don Williams "My Heart To You" (Compendia, 2004)
Don Williams "Ruby Tuesday & Other Favorites" (CW, 2009)
Don Williams "And So It Goes" (Sugar Hill, 2011)
(Produced by Garth Fundis & Don Williams)
Great stuff. It's true: Don Williams is just a force of nature, plain and simple. This elegantly produced album has more soulfulness to it than pretty much the entire country Top Forty of the 21st Century thus far, and at age 73, the mellow, velvet-voiced Mr. Williams shows no sign of slowing down. This is his first album in about eight years, and it's a gem, with his voice as strong and expressive as ever, and a wealth of good material. Williams opens with "Better Than Today," an optimistic, singalong ballad where a humble everyman prays for each day to go well (it's a companion piece to the similarly-themed "Lord, I Hope This Day Is Good") and puts a good face on life's little ups and downs. For years, Williams has ben a master of the kind of sentimental blue-collar mythologizing that's run rampant in country music, the big difference being that when Williams sings these songs, they feel real and sincere and not like a political bumpersticker that's been slapped onto a pop album. His characters feel real, their voices are recognizable, the songs ring true. Another highlight is his duet with Alison Krauss, "I Just Come Here for the Music," a classic country set-up with two lonely people meeting at a bar... they harmonize nicely. Producer Garth Fundis brings a big sound to this album, but it fits nicely. For example, "What If It Worked Like That" is a nice uptempo number with a George Strait-ish feel that brings the normally-folkie Williams a little closer to mainstream country-pop; a couple of tunes you could leave off of your playlist, but mostly this is an album that fans will adore. I've always like Don Williams, and thought this was a great record.
Bob McDill "Short Stories" (JMI, 1972) (LP)
Hick Music Index