Album Review – Chancey Williams – “One of These Days”

photo: Michael Woolheater

If we could wave a magic wand and instantly remake mainstream country music into something much better than what it is today, Chancey Williams and his new album One of These Days would not be a bad wish at all. It’s country with steel guitar and fiddle. It’s cool. It’s catchy and hooky, but the songs still say something. It’s not a perfect specimen of country according to the Book of Mark Chesnutt or anything, but it presents a pragmatic notion of what country music could be where everybody could enjoy it, and together.

We keep talking about how 90s country and Western country are two of the hottest trends in country music at the moment since people are hungry for twang and authenticity. It just happens to be that Chancey Williams and his crew can fulfill both of those desires, while still being something your pop country-listening cousins or neighbors would probably dig if you played it at the next barbecue.

Chancey Williams is a true rodeo cowboy from Wyoming who’s competed as a saddle bronc rider for years, and is the only guy since Chris LeDoux to both ride and perform at the legendary Frontier Days in Cheyenne. Chancey brings his real-world experiences to both lively songs and more sentimental ballads that show off a sincere passion for country and Western while satiating a range of emotions for the audience. And just like LeDoux, Chancey doesn’t mind bringing a little rock influence into the mix. But also like LeDoux, the end result is still country.

“One of These Days,” “Blame It on the Rain,” and “Only the Good Ones” are just well-written tracks, and they all come from the pen of Chancey Williams. Then producer Trent Willmon comes in, and from all those years and co-writes in Nashville, he knows how to tighten up the material and marry it with the music in a way that makes it widely appealing, while still remaining true to itself.

All that’s well and good, but when Chancey takes his Western and rodeo experiences and puts them to song, this is when he rises above the crowded field of folks making retro-sounding country. It’s not just the music and words. It’s how you believe them when they come from someone like Chancey.

When the forlorn fiddle opens the album on the song “The Saint,” and then the galloping rhythm underpins a Western song about the kind of hero/villains that the law hates and the people love, it’s not hard to buy in. When Williams sings about wanting to be buried in the Western plains before they disappear in “Land of the Buffalo,” you know it’s coming straight from the heart.

One of These Days is not all about gunfighters and wide open spaces though. A lot of variety is brought to the writing and sounds. You’re caught off guard by a downright drunken Irish pub singalong complete with phonetic accent in “On the Tear Tonight.” It’s not exactly authentic to Chancey, but it’s hard to say it’s not fun. “Hideaway” with its reggae/island beat might be a little too Chesney as opposed to Chancey for the rodeo crowd, but it’s one of the few soft spots on the record. That’s counterbalanced later by “Rodeo Time,” which is a straight up rock song, but one that still fits Chancey and his band well.

Chancey Williams might be a regional artist from Wyoming, but his sound is ripe for taking nationwide, which is already starting to happen. He’s already been making a big stink in Montana/Wyoming for years, and he’s well-known on the radio circuit too. Nothing would be better for country music than for Chancey Williams to blow up, and One of These Days just may have the gusto to do it.

1 3/4 Guns Up (8/10)

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