Wayne Bledsoe: Old dog Don Williams doesn't need new country tricks

Don Williams sticks with the old formula on his new album "And So It Goes."

Don Williams sticks with the old formula on his new album "And So It Goes."

"And So It Goes," Don Williams (Sugar Hill)

Don Williams has one of the most unmistakable voices in music. It's deep, calm and full of authority. From the days with the Pozo-Seco Singers ("Time") in the 1960s to his country hits in the 1970s and '80s (his 1980 hit "Good Old Boys Like Me" is one of those rare perfect recordings), Williams has been consistent and sure. Whether it be a song by Bob McDill or John Prine, a songwriter had no better friend than Williams' voice.

When commercial country music took a turn to pop fluff and pandering, Williams took a long vacation. He released his last album in 2004 and announced his retirement in 2006. Four years later, Williams began touring again and now, with the release of "And So It Goes," has returned to recording.

It's a welcome return. Williams may no longer find a footing on country radio, but hearing his unmistakable baritone is pure pleasure.

Opening with the catchy "Better Than Today," Williams makes it plain that he's sticking to familiar territory. It's a bouncy number that recalls "Lord, I Hope This Day Is Good" — gentle, hopeful and sweet. And Williams follows with "Heart of Hearts," a mellow song co-written by former NRBQ guitarist-turned-Nashville-songwriter Al Anderson, Sharon Vaughn and the late under-appreciated songwriting great Stephen Bruton.

Williams (who wrote many of his own early classics) contributes with "She's With Me" and the title track, both collaborations with his son Tim Williams. And Alison Krauss checks in with a duet on "I Just Come Here for the Music," about men and women recuperating from broken hearts at a music club. And, later, Williams revives the O'Kanes' hit "Imagine That."

Williams and co-producer Garth Fundis make no nods to modern invention. "And So It Goes" could've easily been recorded in the early 1980s and just gotten discovered. Williams' voice is still smooth and resonant. And Williams fans Vince Gill and Keith Urban pitch in on guitar and backing vocals.

"And So It Goes" isn't an album filled with new classics (although there's no reason Williams can't have more ahead of him), but it's a solid return by an artist who should never take such a long vacation again.

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