|The first solo album from Glenn Williams - ukeleles, mandolins, acoustic guitars and percussion wrapped around the best of grooves, "Breathing Freely" is an audiophile stunner and a great slow-groove hour.
Glenn has been in the backbone of Lowbudget Records since its inception as a band member and songwriter of Blown Glass, Boys With Toys, Casey Williams, and Random Access Memory. We finally slowed him down enough to work on his own album of the type of music he loves - acoustic jazz / pop / standards, minimal instrumentation, and clean sound.
If you're wondering how good your stereo is, buy this CD/DVD set, or download the hi rez files. On a good system, it's stunning. On a great system, it sounds like Glenn Williams is in your room putting on a show just for you.
People like to speak of debut CDs as showing a “promising singer.” But Breathing Freely by Glenn Williams does more than that: it spotlights one who’s already arrived. He sings well with a distinctively friendly (and sometimes ironical) voice. He plays a panoply of instruments: guitar, ukulele, mandolin, bass, and percussion. And he writes. In fact, he wrote most of the songs on this CD and they are as good --and in one case, even better-- than the covers he plays.
These songs are notable cuts: “Back Home” is a lively opening number with a dynamic accompanying chorus. “I Remember” is also perky, with a sophisticated rhythmic sense and catchy instrumentation. “It’s True” is a clever tune with stunning guitar work by Andy Hollinger and some deftly engineered overdubbing. “The Other Side of Town” wears its Latin sound proudly, thanks partly to the talented Eliud Herrera on nylon guitar. Of course Williams sings with impressive intensity on all. “Because of You” is a pleasant ballad with a startling (uncredited) whistling solo at the end. Is it Williams? I loved his cover of “Shadow and Jimmy,” one of Elvis Costello’s most poignant songs. “Just Us” is a duet with Boston native Ramona Silver, an excellent choice because the two complement each other’s vocal ranges well. “Suzanne” (no, not that one!) is a totally involving number with a subtle country rock feel to it. I defy anyone to walk out of the room while it’s playing. “Freely Breathing” is primarily an instrumental with vocalise accompaniment, some of which borders on the downright eerie. And I’m very glad to hear Martin Mull’s “They Never Met,” one of Mull’s funniest songs (right below "Jesus Christ, Football Star"). It takes a witty man to pay tribute to another so witty.
If you’ve haven’t noticed a pattern in these descriptions, I’ll spell it out for you. A key facet of Williams’ talent is collaboration: finding the right people to accompany him, help arrange his work, (possibly) even give suggestions on the song writing itself. It’s a foolish performer who creates in a vacuum. The savvy one picks the right people to help produce and refine the work. This strategy ought to take Glenn Williams far in the coming years.
- Peter Bates, Stylus August 2008
- Harry C. Tuniese, The Noise of Boston, August 2008