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Album: Gentle Giants: The Songs Of Don Williams
Label: Slate Creek
Tracks: 11

It was only last year that country music's own "gentle giant", Don Williams, announced his retirement from performing at the age of 78 and at the end of an impressive five-decade career that included two CMA awards, two ACM awards and no fewer than 17 no.1 hits. Don, who was inducted into the Country Music Hall Of Fame in 2010, has for many legions of country music fans been the very personification of modern country music: laid-back, easy rollin' and accessible yet not without emotional depth. For above all, Don's always been regarded as a sensitive interpreter of other folks' songs.

So here's a fitting tribute album, coordinated by Don's longtime producer and friend Garth Fundis, which features an all-star lineup of artists, all of whom have been fans of Don's music for many years and who straddle the genre and specialise in their own right. And although all of these songs will have been associated with Don at one time, many are equally famous through interpretations by different artists, so there's really two aspects to these latest accounts. Perhaps the most satisfying sequence comes towards the middle of the disc, with Alison Krauss' Till The Rivers All Run Dry, John Prine's Love Is On A Roll, Trisha Yearwood's lovely take on the wistful Maggie's Dream, and Keb' Mo' guiding us along on the tasty, gospel-flavoured Lord I Hope This Day Is Good. I might take issue with ascribing Townes Van Zandt's much-covered If I Needed You to Don Williams, but Jason Isbell & Amanda Shires do a nice job nevertheless. But right through the collection the quality never lets up, right from the sparky Tulsa Time (the Pistol Annies) through to Good Ole Boys Like Me (Garth Brooks), and the supporting cast of players is naturally first-rate, with folks like Jerry Douglas, Sam Bush, Bryan Sutton, Colin Linden and Roger Cook (co-writer of two of the songs) along for the ride.

Let's not bemoan the absence of many of Don's greatest successes, for this album could've easily been a box-set! Still, in encompassing country's many moods, this album does exactly what it says on the tin. No more need be said to earn it a recommendation for anyone who's ever appreciated Don Williams' massive contribution to country music.

David Kidman