Doing It Right

1-800-Lonesome (Bell Buckle Records)
Johnny Williams

By Bob Mitchell

The first thing Johnny Williams did right was to enlist the help of his talented wife, Jeanette and her band. The second thing he did right was to assemble an enjoyable array of songs. Two tracks on, including the catchy title cut, were written by the incredible team of Tom T. and Dixie Hall. Williams, winner of the Chris Austin songwriting contest at Merle Fest in 1998 and 1999, contributes five original tunes but none finer than "Take Your Love and Go," "Round Woods," an original haunting instrumental with an old time feel and the heartfelt "I Cling To Your Memory."

Williams, the subject of a feature article in the July issue of Bluegrass Now, knows how to write a good bluegrass tune. He wrote and recorded three songs for the soundtrack of "Bell Witch: The Movie." In addition, his songs have been recorded by Larry Stephenson, Junior Sisk, Special Consensus and Honi Deaton. Another thing Williams can do is sing a good bluegrass song. When he covers Buck Owen's "Sweethearts In Heaven" it is easy to understand why he was named Virginia State Champion Male Vocalist in 1991.

The project also features some fine husband-wife harmony, especially on "Shutters of My Heart," "Trail of The Old Lonesome Pine," "I Cling To Your Memory," and "Take Your Love and Go." Their a capella gospel duet, "Perfect Joy," is superb.

Three tracks feature Jeanette on lead vocal: an excellent title track, the up-tempo "Love Me Or Leave Me Alone," and a sincere "You Don't Love Me Anymore."

Williams is ably assisted by Marsha Bowman and her solid banjo playing (especially on "Sailor's Regret"); Jeanette Williams on acoustic bass and lead and harmony vocals; Stephen Fraleigh's tasteful fiddle work (most notably on "I Cling To Your Memory") and Ashby Frank on mandolin. Guest starring on this project is Sally Jones, Pinecastle recording artist, with her skillful baritone vocal on "1-800-Lonesome." ?>