Album Review – Sam Williams – “Glasshouse Children”
Yes, I went there. No, it’s not country. Yes, many of the early signs were bad. No, it’s not a great album. Yes, the only reason we’re even talking about this thing is because Sam Williams comes from the Hank Williams lineage, and since pedigree in country music—and with the Williams family especially—is such a strong indicator of quality, it’s owed at least a passing consideration, even if not much more.
The son of Hank Williams Jr. has been kicking around the music industry for a few years now, dabbling with some traditional country stuff, then moving in a much more contemporary direction, but overall just seeming to be trying to find himself. There were a lot of questions of where young Sam would take his music, and his first official full-length record from Mercury Nashville does little to answer those questions. In fact, it leaves one perhaps even more confused than before.
Don’t expect a chip off the old block. That much is for certain. And hey, Sam shouldn’t feel obligated to pursue some pure form of country music simply from a sense of fealty to his last name. He should follow his heart. That is what being a Williams is about, and what his father, grandfather, half sister Holly, and half brother Shelton Hank all did. And to be honest, the timbre of Sam’s voice probably just doesn’t fit in traditional country music, at least not firmly.
But you do have to find some sort of lane, or at least a cohesive expression to delineate yourself from the herd of new artists beyond riding off your famous last name. Sonically, Glasshouse Children is a genre-less mishmash of country, pop, hip-hop, and rock influences with little direction or unified expression to speak of. Some will tell you that’s the only way to truly be creative—to break free of the trappings of traditional genres. But if you can’t be categorized anywhere, you run the risk of being categorized nowhere, and that’s where this inconclusive album resides.
But don’t take this to mean Glasshouse Children is without merit, even if you don’t know where to catalog it on the music store shelf. Multiple tracks are quite well-written, while others work as songs autonomously from the concerns for the album itself, even if they’re decidedly outside of the appeal of country proper. “Glasshouse Children” and “Kids” speak to this sort of prism lifestyle of being an affluent kid of a famous family, and finding it hard to find your place in the world, to grow up, and connect with a common perspective on life. There’s a lot of self-awareness in the words to these songs.
“Can’t Fool Your Own Blood” could have been an excellent country song. But even the contemporary Americana production fails to hold back the powerful message the song conveys. The simple and short acoustic song “Bullleit Blues” also has a little something to it. And though “10-4” is total pop, you cycle through it enough, you’ll count it as a guilty pleasure. “The World: Alone” written for his late sister Katie who died tragically in a car accident is hard to not feel the power of.
Utilizing quality co-writers such as Dan Auerbach and Sean McConnell means that the songwriting of Glasshouse Children is surprisingly strong and developed. But working with multiple producers, including The Cadillac Three’s Jaren Johnston, Paul Moak, Sean McConnell, Bobby Holland, and “others,” it resulted in the complete lack of consistent direction in the styles of the songs. Even if Sam went 100% pop with a single producer, it still would have been a better result.
Meanwhile, some of the songs that veer toward ultra contemporary pop such as “Wild Girl” and “Hopeless Romanticism” will turn off large swaths of any built-in audience Sam’s last name may afford. Even his song with Dolly Parton called “Happy All The Time” complete with steel guitar accompaniment is too saccharine, too expressionless to make a quality argument for itself. Even the marketing and imagery for this album feel like it’s stretching for attention as opposed to representing Sam authentically.
Glasshouse Children is too good for pop, too bad for Americana, not really country in any way despite a few inflections here and there, and just leaves the listener a bit puzzled, despite the really good songs one will find when listening through the production. It just feels like Sam Williams still is searching to find himself. And in Nashville when signed to a major label is not necessarily the best forum to do that.
Timothy L Woodward
August 25, 2021 @ 11:27 am
The problem is, this guy doesn’t know what he wants to be. Want to sing country go sing country, want to sing pop go sing pop and so on. Pick a genre and fucking stay there. Offspring of country legends hardly ever live up to their names but at least most try their hardest. This guy isn’t even trying he’s literally banking on his famous last name. The difference between this guy and his brother is at least Hank 3 had a decent country debut that wasn’t all over the fucking place.
August 26, 2021 @ 5:11 am
Why you should not sing what you want to sing? as ernest tubb once said: Why don’t you leave that boy alone and let him sing his song?
August 25, 2021 @ 12:15 pm
Sounds delightfully mediocre.
August 25, 2021 @ 12:55 pm
So much potential here. Unfortunately, I doubt he will get a second full length album. I was looking forward to this. I like his cover of Weatherman. I like that he ain’t trying to be his dad. No problem, but put a cohesive project together. This was a huge missed opportunity.
The Ghost Of OlaR...
August 25, 2021 @ 1:09 pm
Just another mishmash/pop/country/whatever album released on a Nashville label.
But…hey…it’s a XYZ Williams album with a Dolly duet.
Glad it’s only ten tracks & the duet with Dolly Parton (“Happy All The Time”) is the only one not completely forgetable.
In The Pipeline:
Natalie Henry – White Heat – Album – 09/17 (Trad-Country/Australia)
The Bloomvilles – The Bloomvilles – Album – 09/03 (Country/Australia)
Lachlan Bryan & The Wildes – As Long As It’s Not Us – Album – 09/17 (Alt-Country/Australia)
August 25, 2021 @ 2:00 pm
You know, I dont know a damned thing about how music is made, or how artists decide on what they want to do, what they want to record. I just know what I like, and who plays it, and I always look for other artists I like giving it good marks before giving it a spin.
But damn when your last name is Williams, your Daddy is Hank Jr, your brother is Shelton, Your sister is Holly, you have to at least CONSIDER looking at what they do/did, and at least DIGEST it… don’t you? DON’T YOU?
We don’t know that he didn’t, obviously, but DAMN, I could think of worse names to have behind my given name…Maybe I aint supposed to understand.
And I like Dale Watson’s 10-4 better. LOL
August 25, 2021 @ 2:39 pm
I think it’s a beautiful album and the lyrics speak to someone groping with trials, loss, trauma, and their hometown truth. And mostly, the story of growing up told from a poetic point of view. His voice is a bluesy, folksy, whimsical mix that can’t be categorized by one genre and shouldn’t be.
August 25, 2021 @ 2:47 pm
Haven’t felt compelled to comment here in awhile…. Am I listening to something completely different than everyone else? These two songs aren’t bad at all. He’s got a good voice (could have been EQd with a little more low-mids), lyrics are sincere (as you mentioned), instrumentation is nice and polished and well played.
I’m confused by the low marks here. The guy can clearly sing. I feel like the 4.5 comes down to reviewing it in the context of a traditional/hard country album. Did he claim somewhere to be a traditional/hard country musician? Is he limited to traditional/hard country because of his last name? Maybe it veers a little into pop, but I’d consider it more singer-songwriter than anything – just more polished and fleshed out instrumentation-wise than the average folk singer-songwriter. More of a Jeff Buckley/90s vibe if anything.
I think he’s going to be just fine!
August 25, 2021 @ 3:02 pm
Well first off, I picked out what I believed were the two best standalone songs from the album, so if you like these, that might be the reason. Sometimes in a mixed review, I will pick out a good and a bad song, but I chose to highlight the best here. Perhaps listen to the record, and the review might make more sense.
As I said in the review, I don’t think we should expect Sam Williams to be traditional/hard country, and I didn’t necessary review the album as such. I reviewed it as an album of music, and since I listen to quite a bit of pop country, I am knowledgeable enough to judge it beside peers. However, it was released on a Music Row major country label, so it is being released to the country market, at least to some extent. But like I said, it fails to create a cohesive expression for itself, and you end up more confused than anything. That can happen when you have multiple producers, and little or not direction. Some great songs, a few bad ones. But mostly, it’s the production that did him wrong.
I feel my review and grade is fair, and it’s not meant to insult the guy, but to give my honest perspective, and hope for a better outcome next time.
Timothy P Denman
August 26, 2021 @ 11:04 am
Crazy review. Amazing record from beginning to end. His grandad did all kinds of music. Sam is the same. Sam is a breath of fresh air from the current cardboard country.
August 25, 2021 @ 2:49 pm
Not going to be too rough. The start of the album was good then it kind went aimless. I don’t care if he goes pop. Please do so. He’d be good at it. Kid trying to find his way. I’m not harsh on kids of famous. Hell, his daddy birthed bro country, total left field from Hank Sr. Overall the album wasn’t great but good songs and potential. Keep it up young man and don’t let these reviews get you down 🙂
August 25, 2021 @ 3:12 pm
I liked Can’t Fool Your Own Blood and think his voice works well with it- 10-4?
Oh, my bad- I didn’t think much of 10-4
August 25, 2021 @ 3:40 pm
I was surprised at the score. You seemed to have more good things to say than bad. I was expecting a 6-7 score after reading the review.
August 25, 2021 @ 4:23 pm
I thought I was pretty expressive about my concerns about this record. At the same time, I thought some of the songwriting was decent, and wanted to give credit where credit was due.
August 25, 2021 @ 5:00 pm
August 25, 2021 @ 7:45 pm
I guess I might be the only one that likes this Album. I certainly think he is a better singer than Hank III. And one review his father said Sam has the best voice in the family. I enjoyed each song on the Album and hopefully he may have another Album one day.
August 25, 2021 @ 9:29 pm
Can’t say I’m a fan. I wanted to be but nothing he put out leading up to the album ever held with me.
August 25, 2021 @ 9:42 pm
Blathering excuse for country music. Hank III would eat him for lunch. Maybe try arranging flowers, Sam?
August 25, 2021 @ 10:28 pm
Haven’t had a chance to listen to the whole album yet, but you do have to feel for him, what with a legendary grandfather, father AND half brother to measure up to. No pressure Sam, phew!
August 26, 2021 @ 5:45 am
I’m not a music critic, but I know shit when I hear it. couple of bright spots, but this was pretty bad in my opinion.
August 26, 2021 @ 6:48 am
If you even Have a shred of an expectation this is country music you’ll be very disappointed. It is a southern pop project. Having that in mind, I found it quite fascinating. The writing is excellent and the vocal performance, although heavily influenced by modern pop, has a bluesy quality to it which is quite nice. Modern pop music is moving in a more aimless genre less direction and this has that energy in spades. One of the critiques with modern alt pop (and that’s where I’d classify this) is that it has a jack of all trades master of none problem and trig hit the nail on the head with that.
Greatly enjoyed it but definitely see how it’s not for everyone especially someone who is more a fan of straightforward country.
August 26, 2021 @ 9:57 am
This is a real revelation.
All this time I thought Kid Rock was Hank, Jr.’s son.
August 26, 2021 @ 11:04 am
How sweet of Dolly to lend her backing and vocals to Sam’s, “If Money Could Buy Happiness.”
Just love that she did this.
I think their very different vocals add cred. to this song. It works
strait country 81
August 26, 2021 @ 2:34 pm
At least he’s cute😉
August 26, 2021 @ 8:02 pm
Well, I think the first song was good, the 2nd song on your playlist was totally pop. Growing up on JR, he was my favorite singer growing up, I had hoped to of had a reincarnation of his father with songs like Family Tradition and Whiskey Bent & Hell Bound. I knew when we started seeing him in the last year or so, I knew that was never going to be the case. So yes, I am disappointed but the kid has a nice voice but I would never play this music in my truck or house ever. I believe he could have a career in today’s pop country realm but I won’t be able to tell you any of his songs since they left me high and dry years ago and never listen to the format. 3rd is never coming back, his son doesn’t do anything for me so it looks like there won’t be any real country music from the Williams family again, its a sad day for me for sure. Very seldom if ever a kid of a superstar ever becomes more popular or better than the parent. I do feel if I had to pick one that could, my money is on Ben Haggard. Sure would love to hear something new by him.
September 5, 2021 @ 6:51 pm
Sam is terrible. Is nephew Coleman Williams has way more talent … Hank 3 is awesome!!!!!
August 27, 2021 @ 12:02 am
Speaking as a fan of his going back a few years, I think you (and others here) are underestimating both him and the reach of his music.
August 27, 2021 @ 8:38 am
I think it is a wonderful record, this review, not so much, BUT you did get one thing right. It is genre-less, just how the Gen Z’s like it. It is Williams haunting vocals and unique vocal styling that ties it all together. Can’t remember the last time an artist gave me cold chills, the good kind. This record does it for me. Like you, I fear signing with a Nashville label will not be an asset. I doubt they have a clue how to market someone outside of the same ole, same ole box.
August 27, 2021 @ 9:53 pm
I wanted to like Sams album, but after giving it numerous listens I just dont. Its just not for me. It doesnt have a shred of country music so it shouldnt be labeled as such. Im not sure what audience hes going for, maybe Billie Eilish or Post Malone fans would like Sam, because thats what his music reminds me of. Also, this may sound harsh but 10-4 might be one of the worst songs Ive heard, ever, in any genre. Its so hokey/corny. The only track I like is Cant Fool Your Own Blood. That song is decent. The rest though, man, its just not good. Its a drag to get even get through.
August 29, 2021 @ 9:46 pm
There’s only one son of Hank, who’s name is Hank. We miss you, 3
December 29, 2021 @ 11:33 am
You all are crazy. Great fucking album! Heartfelt, brutally honest lyrics, gorgeous vocals, lush arrangements. Why does an artist always have to be categorized? Just enjoy some outstanding music.
I am reminded of the debut and sadly only album by Jeff Buckley.
Sam Williams is an extremely talented young man. I hope he remains true to himself despite all the criticism.