This biggest question heading into the release of Don Williams’ And So It Goes was what would change in Don’s sound after an 8-year hiatus from recording, 18 years after last working with long-time producer Garth Fundis, a quasi-retirement, and an induction into the Country Music Hall of Fame? Well the answer is positively nothing, and that’s what makes And So It Goes such a treasure.
It’s so easy when reflecting on country music’s past to focus on the big, flashy names: Willie & Waylon, Dolly & Kenny, Merle & George while intermixed with all the superstar names and dramatic style changes in country music, Don Williams amassed 17 #1 hits over his career, and did it all with an endearing straightforward, no nonsense approach, letting his towering build that won him the name “The Gentle Giant” and his rugged frontiersman hat convey his message. Don never needed to say much in his own defense. He looked more like country music than anyone else.
With his bronze secured in The Hall, Don Williams didn’t have to do much with this release, which means he could do what he wanted. Throughout this album is a sweetness, an innocence that harkens you back to Don’s golden era when country music was a lot more stable, and the approach and goals of the music much more simple: tell a story, touch someone’s heart, offer hope or relief, and do it all with class.
Who built the pyramids? Do aliens exist? Where does God come from? One more phenomenon. But if you know how strong my love is. And your heart and mind can comprehend. Just how long I’m gonna feel like this. Then you’ll know what infinity is.
From some country artists, lines like this from Don’s song “Infinity” would be cheesy. From Don, it is the utmost of class, and speaks to the simplicity that is supposed to be at the heart of country music, the ease of simple goals and simple pleasures, releasing the burden of big questions. And the mood is all brought along so charmingly by Don’s smooth voice and approach.
This album has the ability to stimulate memory and reflection without coming across as dated or even nostalgic. This was the wisdom of going back and using Don’s original producer of Garth Fundis on this album. And So It Goes is like an ice cream cone your grandfather bought you, the smell of your grandparent’s house, a tire swing on an old tree, the shade of the light when it hits a golden meadow just right at the turning of spring or fall.
And So It Goes simply sends you to this soft place, and makes you second guess yourself if you overlooked some mainstream 70’s and 80’s country for lacking substance. It makes you wonder just how many of those Don Williams #1’s can you name. Not all of them? Well you better start digging and see what you missed.
This isn’t honky-tonk music, no heavy bass or stomping of boots on barroom floors. This is contemporary country from a by-gone era. And despite of what you may of thought about contemporary country before, you may be surprised to find And So It Goes speaking right to you.
1 3/4 of 2 guns up.
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