Having spent more than a decade with the now dissolved band, Joe Buck Jr., Rob Williams is a journeyman musician and experienced singer-songwriter. When the members of Joe Buck Jr. went their separate ways, the desire to create still burned within Williams and he decided to pursue a solo career. 2013 saw Williams’ debut his first solo album, A Place in the Sun, but he wanted his follow up to be unlike anything he had previously done. So he packed his bags for Dallas, TX, and worked with a new crew including seasoned producer, Salim Nourallah. The result? Williams’ Virginia roots in acoustic rock and Americana folk come together with pop and rock n roll to create a new sound. Williams’ latest effort, the eight track Southern FM, is set to be released on December 14th.
Southern FM comes blasting out of the gate with “Footprints.” Very much uptempo with guitars and drums working in perfect unison, this opening track owns that southern rock style that anyone knows the moment they hear it. With a story about leaving a relationship that can’t be saved despite wishes to the contrary, “Footprints” lyrics such as “You will see footprints/Walking Away/That’s me saying goodbye/So long” perfectly complement the music. “Best I Can Do” is a fun and upbeat song that shows off Williams’ acoustic guitar skills against a steady drum line, touching on his relationship with the americana/country genre. “Where You Hang Your Heart” continues the uptempo pace offering more guitar strumming throughout this love song with the line “It’s where you hang your heart/That I’ll call home.” The first half of Southern FM wraps up on a slower note as Williams takes the tempo down a couple of notches with the mid-tempo ballad “Sometimes It’s A Song.” My favorite track on this release, it is about wondering if what you do matters and if anyone is even listening. There is also a romantic, nostalgic aspect to this track that is emphasized by the introduction of some beautifully emotional piano playing alongside vocals that could easily remind listeners of a young Bob Dylan baring his soul through lyricism.
The second half of Southern FM begins with “Henry and Maria.” Highlighted musically by the guitar and harmonica, “Henry and Maria” is a love story between the two from the point of view of Henry. Talking about the legacy their love left behind, the songwriting here is comparable to “Jack and Diane” by John Mellencamp. “Sun Gone Down” is more of an alternative indie rock track and takes a momentary trip down a somewhat darker lyrical road than previously heard.
“The wind blows hard/The wind blows cold/The sun goes down/Meet you on that lonesome dark road/The sun goes down.” The darkness breaks with the somewhat comical “You’ve Been A Bad Christian.” With a piano opening and a tambourine, this track mixes folk and country before Williams closes Southern FM with “Anything But Gone.” A mesh of fun folk, campy country and peppy pop, this final track blends all of the styles heard on this release while leaving listeners wanting just a little bit more of Williams.
A confessional singer in the spirit of Bob Dylan, Tom Waites or Tom Petty, Rob Williams is a pure story teller at heart. In taking common life experiences and turning them into songs, Williams finds commonality between himself and listeners of his music and that is generally a recipe for success. His music is a clear culmination of his Virginia roots in country, folk and alternative rock/americana but with enough external influence this time around to give Southern FM just the right amount of ingenuity needed to stand proudly outside of any one box.