I Know This Road, Roger Williams’ long-awaited solo album, is an eclectic collection of instrumental and vocal works, some of which he has composed and some which have caught his ear over the 40- plus years that he has been in the music business. The CD was released on July 1, 2019.
It represents the hard-won experiences — the joys and the sorrows — inherent in a lifetime of making a living on the road and performing worldwide; a biography in song and music, in other words.
The instrumentals range from the jaunty Josh Graves’ Pretty Little Rainbow, to an ethereal rendition of Ave Maria with banjo and bowed bass, to the sprightly Benny Goodman tune, Slipped Disc.
Most of the tunes are enhanced by the legendary Canadian fiddler, Ray Legere, Williams’ long-time musical collaborator, along with Roger’s son JD Williams, an innovative and superb mandolin player in his own right.
Although better known as an instrumentalist, Williams applies his rich baritone to vocal renditions of songs from songwriters such as Don Henley, Graham Nash, Gordon Lightfoot, and Williams himself.
Williams’ long-time musical partner Amy Gallatin joins him on a few vocal efforts, most notably Vince Gill’s ode to long time love, Look at Us.
Also, in the mix are two members of the Northbridge, Massachusetts-based Blackstone Valley Bluegrass; bassist Bob Dick, formerly of the award-winning bluegrass group Front Range, and his brother Dave Dick, formerly of Salamander Crossing, Southern Rail, and Northern Lights.
Williams has graciously sent a brief note about each of the 14 tracks on the CD.
1 – Medley for Dobro and Double Bass
“I first performed this medley of traditional standards (Wildwood Flower; Old Spinning Wheel; Little Rosewood Casket) at the Dobrofest in Slovakia, 1999, while on tour with Slavek Hanzlik, an amazing flat-picker from the Czech Republic. Instead of performing it as a trio, he suggested I do it with the bass player only. I liked it so well that I decided I would one day record it that way.”
2 – I Know This Road
“Here is a song by singer/songwriter Steve Brennan. I was asked to play on the recording of the song and I fell in love with the tune.”
Williams has provided his recording of the title song …..
3 – Night of The Supermoon
“I wrote this tune while jamming with my son JD during the rare occasion of a supermoon. Strange things happen during a full moon.”
4 – Longings
“An original instrumental that came to me during one of my overseas tours. Life on the road doing music can leave one longing for home and family.”
5 – The Cost of Living
“I saw Don Henley perform this song on Austin City Limits and knew immediately that I would record it someday. A profound meditation on paying your dues.”
6 – (Pretty Little) Rainbow
“Fred Pike, a great guitar and banjo player from Maine, who graced the stages of the Northeast’s bluegrass festivals for thirty years once pulled me aside at a festival, asked to see my Dobro, and played this Josh Graves tune for me. I really liked it and decided to one day record it.”
7 – The Sleep Song
“I’ve loved this Graham Nash composition since first hearing it back in the 1970s. Melodically and lyrically, it’s not like any other song I’ve ever heard.”
8 – Ave Maria
“A beautiful melody by French composer Charles Gounod based on the first Prelude from Bach’s Well–Tempered Clavier. I get to perform this from time to time during the Christmas season with banjo and bowed bass.”
9 – Look at Us
“My partner Amy Gallatin and I were requested to learn and perform this tune at our friends’ anniversary party. It has become one of our most requested songs.”
10 – Over the Waterfall-Talking In Your Sleep
“I’ve only rarely had the occasion to perform this medley of a traditional fiddle tune and a ballad by Gordon Lightfoot; they do seem to work well together. Gordon Lightfoot, with his expressive lyrics and emotive melodies remains one of my all-time favorite songwriters.”
11 – Slipped Disc
“Ray Legere, the world-class Canadian fiddler/mandolinist once played this Benny Goodman tune in a jam session and I thought that a grassed-up version would be great fun to record and it was!”
12 – Life Goes On
“I met songwriter Bobby Starnes a few years back at Coyote Moon Bluegrass Festival in Upstate New York. Afterwards, on the moonlit porch of an Adirondacks cabin where we were staying, I got to hear this moving song as we passed around a guitar.”
13 – Musings
“These days I seem to do this a lot; this tune is the result.”
14 – Don’t Go Down That Road
“Dedicated to my good friend Gary Filgate, who gave me some good advice through the years–even if I didn’t always take it! I did manage to put some of it down on paper and spin it into a song.”
The musicians featured are Roger Williams – resophonic guitar, upright bass, guitar, vocals; JD Williams – mandolin; Ray Legere – fiddle; Dave Dick – banjo, guitar; Bob Dick – upright bass; Amy Gallatin – vocals; and Steve Sleeper – guitar, vocals.