And So It Goes by Don Williams

Don Williams has been flirting with retirement for years, and while he hasn’t quite succeeded at disappearing, his appearances are infrequent enough to be reason for celebration. His first new collection in eight years is a meditation on time: its passing, its apparent endlessness, the losses along the way, what remains and what might still be possible. All this may seem like a lot to take in, but Don, employing his signature gentility, brings forth these songs of maturity with heart, ease and, at times, a grandfatherly quality that makes them a pleasure to listen to. But while the 73-year-old is singing from the mellowed perspective of age and wisdom, he’s not exactly delivering these nuggets from the rocking chair, either. 

There’s a quiet vitality underneath it all that makes Don sound believable even on such optimistic declarations as I got two hands that ain’t afraid to work hard / And I jump out of bed every day. Those lines are contained in the spry kickoff track, “Better Than Today,” a faith-fueled jump-starter that picks up where Don’s 1982 chart-topper “Lord, I Hope This Day Is Good” leaves off. Another standout cut, “Heart of Hearts,” also taps into this subtly spiritual stream with a beautifully rendered lyric that deftly sidesteps the question of specific beliefs while asserting that truth has a way of making itself heard. Sadness and sweetness, contentment and yearning are neatly counterbalanced throughout the disc, perhaps most effectively on “What if It Worked Like That,” an upbeat flight of fantasy that begins with tongue in cheek and ends with heart on sleeve. 

Guest spots from Alison Krauss, Keith Urban and Vince Gill are, for the most part, surprisingly understated—further evidence that ol’ Don can, and does, hold his own on this outing, perhaps his strongest set in the last 20 years. As the potent observations on And So It Goes make clear, time is indeed ticking away, though Don’s comforting, timeless-sounding presentation of these top-flight tunes can sometimes make it seem otherwise. 

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