Ron Williams, son of the often underrated Leona Williams and one-time stepson of Merle Haggard, has a nice voice with a warm tone and soft timbre which is very pleasing. His third album, produced by Eddie Kilroy, on Ah-Ha Music Group, is solidly country, with some lovely fiddle from Rob Hajacos, and 80s star Janie Fricke guests on backing vocals. Williams is not a writer, unlike his mother, but he and his producer have found some excellent songs for this record.
Bill Anderson contributed three very good songs to the set, starting with the outstanding title track co-written with Jim Collins, a soulful ballad about the increasing regrets about a broken relationship after the event, as the protagonist starts to remember the good things he misses rather than the fights and bad times, concluding,
“It’s a funny thing about a memory
The longer you’re gone
The better our love used to be”
Just as good is the ironic reproach to a former love now dating another guy, written by Bill with Don Cook, ‘You Should Have More Respect For The Dead’:
“Can’t you see you’re killing me
Your happiness is messing up my head
I’ve died a thousand times since I threw away your love
You should have more respect for the dead”
Anderson and Cook joined up with Matt Jenkins to write ‘The F Words’ about a man whose cheating ex wants him back, but,
“I can’t say the F words
Forgive and forget”
Another highlight is the cover of ‘Where The Tall Grass Grows’, recorded previously by George Jones on his 1991 album And Along Came Jones, and also covered by Ricky Van Shelton on 1994’s Love And Honor. While Ron is not in quite the same league as Jones (few are), he tackles the fine song with an honest emotion, as he depicts a house that is no longer a home, with haunting steel and lonesome fiddle.
Becky Hobbs (who had several minor country hits in the 80s and wrote ‘Angels Among Us’ for Alabama in the 90s) is the best represented writer here, with four songs, the best of which is a cover of her touching ‘She Broke Her Promise’, a tender story song based on Becky’s own parents’ story, which she recorded herself. It tells the story of a devoted married couple who swear to one another for the survivor to remarry should one of them die, but it he event the widow just can’t do it. She and her husband Duane Sciacqua wrote the lively mid-tempo song about writing a ‘John Deere Letter’ to a hated boss about giving up the stresses of city life for a farm in Tennessee, set to a very catchy tune:
“I’m gonna take this fine computer
And one last time I’ll boot her
Down thirty floors of elevator shaft
Then this fancy little cellphone’s
Gonna take a trip out of the window
And everyone can try to find me
Ask me if I care
I’m gonna write my boss a John Deere letter
Overalls suit me better
This white collar is trying to strangle me”
Becky joined Dene Anton for a pair of ballads with pretty tunes, both about the possibility of falling in love, ‘Margarita Moon’ and the romantic waltz ‘Somewhere Between Now And Forever’. These are less memorable than Becky’s other songs here, and at first I thought they were the closest the album gets to filler, but they both grew on me with repeated listens, relegating John Wayne Wiggins and Harley Allen’s ‘A Little More Fun’, a mellow Strait-style admonition to someone taking life too seriously, to the position of my least favourite track.
The punchy up-tempo ‘Green Bananas’ comes from Larry Shell and Kim Williams, and is not the song of the same title on Jake Owen’s current album, but a very entertaining warning to a friend just married to a “black widow”:
You turned a deaf ear to a friend’s advice
Took a black widow to be your wife
Sleep with one eye open with your new girlie
Don’t do your Christmas shopping early
I wouldn’t go buying no green bananas
Or season tickets to the Braves in Atlanta
Don’t stand on the edge of no high verandahs
And don’t go buying no green bananas
First time love second time money
Didn’t I tell you to watch your buddy
Last May she laid number 3 in the ground
Do the math, it’s her fourth time around….
Don’t eat a bite cooked by your new chef
Don’t drink no drinks you didn’t mix yourself
Lord only knows how she’ll do you in
But it’s been nice knowing you, my friend
Ron ventures into western swing with ‘Her Heart Belongs To Texas’, a cheery lament about losing a woman “in love with the Lone Star State”, written by Warren Robb and Dave Lindsey. Lindsey also co-wrote what may be my favourite track after ‘Green Bananas’, the reproachful closer, ‘There Must Be A Misunderstanding’, as the protagonist tackles his girlfriend who has been seen out with her ex, with Fricke’s harmonies quite high in the mix.
“I thought you told me forever was ours
I guess that I heard you wrong
Did you really mean it when you said you loved me
Or were you just leading me on?
There must be a misunderstanding
I must have things all mixed up
There must be a misunderstanding
I thought that we were in love”
Available from CDBaby.