Where No One Stands Alone is Paul Williams’ seventh album for Rebel Records; all have been in the bluegrass Gospel style. That has been Williams’ chosen path for several years now, since retiring from his day job. He has been well rewarded for his endeavours with several awards from SPBGMA and nominations for IBMA awards. He deserves the roses.This latest CD consists of 14 tracks in all, five of which were written by Williams (credited as Paul Humphrey, as usual), a couple arranged by him and the balance, including Joe Isaacs’ classic I Pressed Through The Crowd, from various other sources.
Vocally, all but two songs is a trio, with Williams (mandolin, and lead or tenor) accompanied by Kelly McCord (guitar and lead or tenor) and Rodney Worley (fiddle, guitar and baritone). The variations are found with Could That Be Jesus?, a duet with McCord taking the lead to Williams’ tenor, and the a cappella quartet Thank You Jesus, which incorporates Kevin Bowen, singing bass, underpinning Williams’ high lead, McCord’s low-tenor and Worley’s baritone. Matt Wallace makes sure that the rhythm section is solid throughout.
There are many great performances here and more are recognisable as one listens again and again . The quintet is assured from the beginning with The Other Side Of Jordan and continues with A Long Time Ago, where the subject has salvation at an early time in his life and exists thereafter with a certainty about his final destination. Beautiful Heaven and When We’re Living On The Other Side are both characterised by yet more stellar lead vocals, great close harmony singing, a soaring ending and neat flat-pick guitar from Worley. The latter has McCord singing lead and intricate vocal interplay, and both are excellent songs written by Williams.
I’m Getting Anxious begins with a spoken introduction showing that there is still scope for something different here and there.
A Dusty Pair Of Sandals, written by Linda King, urges a steadfastness in spiritual belief. “Don’t let trials and tribulations make you doubt, when great troubles overtake you, don’t give in and don’t give out.” Jesus will be there for you. Williams and co., with McCord singing lead, capture the associated tension very well.
Writer Ernie Groves questions the churches’ solidarity with its original mission in Modernize Churches, asking for a return to the old time way. That Same Road uses the length of a highway as an analogy for a life of struggle without God, suggesting that the road is longer if you have been too far from God.
Another stellar performance can be heard in Could That Be Jesus?, with its almost pleading refrain asking for His presence to assist in the crossing of the spiritual waters. The collection ends with a driving rendition of I Know My Lord Is Going To Lead Me Out.
Everybody describes Paul Williams as a “gentleman;” he lives his life by his beliefs and that comes out in his writing and his singing. Listening to Where No One Stands Alone leaves no doubt about his strong convictions and his prowess as a musician.
Audio samples can be found in iTunes.