Hayward Williams has a talent for taking something you’ve heard a thousand times before and reinventing it into something totally his own. I first caught onto this through his live shows — he doesn’t shy away from covers and for once that’s fine because the songs sound brand new when he puts his spin on them (note: he even manages to top Ryan Adams at his own game when he plays “Come Pick Me Up”).
On Another Sailor’s Dream Williams manages to take the classic country sound and modernize it without losing the original appeal. “Careful Please” is laced with an almost bluegrass twinge, while “Doctors” incorporates piano and brushed snare to create a jazz/country blend.
The album varies from downtempo laments to rousing rockers, “A Song for Lou” and “A Glance Back” being the best of each, respectively.
“A Song For Lou” is a sad, strong ballad incorporating the best use of piano on the album as well as the strongest demonstration of Williams’ voice. This pairing is also quite lovely in the chorus of “Who’s It Gonna Be Today?”. “A Glance Back” utilizes the full band sound not previously heard in Williams’ live shows. The fleshed out version of this is quite successful with the help of guest musicians Dan McMahon and co-producer Peter Mulvey.
Williams closes the record with a cover of Bruce Springsteen’s “Thunder Road”. It’s extremely stripped down and somewhat reminiscent of The Boss’ recent reworkings of his earlier hits. I do wish, however, that Williams would have stuck to his trifecta of vocals, guitar, and harmonica on this track. The bells are out of place even though it generally fits into the Springsteen sound. As mentioned though, Williams is best when making something his own.
In all, the album is a remarkable piece of American music, drawing on classic sounds while innovating to make something fresh and unique.
Another Sailor’s Dream drops on 3/6/2007.
You can order this CD, previous releases, get tour dates and listen to “Thunder Road” here.