The show opened with a three-song set by James OMalley, a seasoned local performer who was joined by a subtly talented harmonica player. He sang a gem of a song about a swampy night jaunt with his brother that turns harrowing. Williams came out and stood in the doorway, clearly enjoying the tune. He was then introduced to an audience who with few exceptions, knew nothing of his music and in many cases little of his genre. It took him less than a song to enrapture the audience. The guitarists in the audience were treated to an up-close view of a man who can make his instrument speak in a variety of musical styles, from intricate classical to sweet jazz, to bluesy rock and roll. Hes a guitarist with at least two or three brains to handle rhythm, base runs, picked chords and melody (I guess thats four!). The places that are worn through the finish on the guitar have paid the price for his flawless technique. The singing reminds me of Pierce Pettis, with a softness that stretches to a wonderful tension when the emotions of the lyrics run strong.
In the course of the show, Williams lets you know who he is and where he is from. The songs are powerful without explanation, but Williams autobiographical elucidation between songs draws one closer to the performer and his songs. We learn that he was an Army brat, moving from town to towntoo fast to make lasting friends. His hometown of Columbia, South Carolina is a source of stories and characters. We find that he draws much inspiration from the poetry of James Dickey, among others. It is clear that he loves playing music more than anything in the world as he falls under the spell of his own songs. At the intermission when I asked him about the influences on his diverse guitar styles, he spoke of years of playing in a variety of bands, even blowing some horn in a jazz band. His tastes run from jazz to real rock and country to classicalhe urged me to check out Brahms Fifth Symphony.
The evening was a wonderful discovery, not only of an artist, but of the people in his lifehis mother, father, the nanny he never properly thanked for being there, the poets and the people of his hometown. Like the troubadours of old, his fame is among those who have been within the sound of his voice. Happily I now number among this select and lucky group. Mike Devlin