by Julian Spivey
“The Gentle Giant” Don Williams wowed a packed house at the Tri-Lakes Center in Branson, Mo. on Saturday night (Oct. 22) with his incredibly smooth vocals that rival the best singers in any genre.
The 72-year old recently came out of retirement to go on tour when he was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame last year and honestly surprised on Saturday with his crisp vocals that sounded so good you’d think you were listening to a CD. Many artists tend to see their vocals fade with the years, but that’s certainly not the case for Williams.
The veteran kicked off his set of classic after classic with “Good Ole Boys Like Me,” a No. 2 charter from 1980, which I consider to be his best song. In today’s country music it seems every young male artist likes to tell us exactly what the South is and almost always they redneck it up or get it wrong … this song gets it right.
Throughout the concert Williams played number one hit after number one hit including: “You’re My Best Friend,” “’Til the Rivers All Run Dry,” “Some Broken Hearts Never Mend,” “Lord, I Hope This Day is Good” and “Love Me Over Again.”
Some of the shows greatest performances were also number one tunes from Williams’ legendary discography like the beautiful vocals on “I Believe in You” and “If Hollywood Don’t Need You (I Do).”
Most of Williams’ songs are slower ballad like tunes, like the perfect breakup tune “She Never Knew Me,” that really showcases his timeless bass-baritone voice, hence the nickname, but he also has a few upper-beat songs like “It Must Be Love” and “Tulsa Time” that really got the crowd tapping their feet along and highlighted the show.
While playing most of his hits Williams also surprised the audience with quite a few of his lesser known songs like “I Recall a Gypsy Woman,” “Back in My Younger Days,” “In the Family” and “She’s In Love with a Rodeo Man.” His best performance of a tune that might not be known to but the most loyal Williams fans was of “How Did You Do It” from his 1998 album I Turn the Page. It’s a beautiful song about trying to get over a love that you just can’t shake.
Williams ended his set with “Amanda,” one of his fan-favorites that was also a hit for fellow country star Waylon Jennings. However, the crowd wanted an encore and Williams politely obliged with “Louisiana Saturday Night” a track that he cut, but was made a hit and is better known by Mel McDaniel.
Janie Fricke, two-time CMA Female Vocalist of the Year, opened the show for Williams singing many of her ‘80s pop-country hits as well as a good number of covers. Among her own hits she performed where the number ones “He’s a Heartache (Looking for a Place to Happen)” and “It Ain’t Easy Being Easy.” Fricke also performed her songs “She’s Single Again,” which she told the audience was almost cut by Reba McEntire before she recorded it, and “Do Me with Love.”
Among the covers that Fricke sang on Saturday night were Johnny Cash’s classic “Ring of Fire,” Glen Campbell’s “Try a Little Kindness,” Johnny Rodriguez’s “Pass Me By” and Conway Twitty’s “The Rose.”