The title is ingrained with fact, not fiction. Johnny and Jeanette Williams have a combined career that includes numerous awards and nominations, as well as the highest accolades accorded to proven participants in today’s bluegrass circles. Both members of this thoroughly dynamic duo have extended accomplishments — his going back well over 30 years in all and her’s accounting for 25 years on her own. Naturally then, the two have always been especially formidable when sharing their skills in common, and given their high harmonies, Johnny’s superb picking and Jeannette’s ability to anchor on stand-up bass, Thirty Years Later becomes an apt summation of their earnest drive and delivery.
Although the ten songs in the set only include two apparent originals — Jeanette’s sweet song of remembrance, Father’s Hand and Gone For So Long, a song Johnny wrote about a final farewell to his childhood home — the Williams show terrific taste in their choice of material. To their credit, the pair vary the sentiment, countering the exhilarating strains of the uptempo opener, How Long Has It Been, and the shimmer and sparkle of Take Me Back Home, with the troubled tones of River of Tears and matter of fact expression of I Don’t Worry, the latter being a bitter retort to an unfaithful lover.
The shift in stance finds its absolute essence with Could It Be, an offering that contrasts its fast-picking, double-time tempo with another lyric about a relationship gone awry. In contrast, the tender Gospel tune, In His Arms, offers an example of how faith can be stated both simply and succinctly.
Clearly then, Johnny & Jeanette Williams prioritize more than their emphatic delivery, although the sound is crisp and concise, thanks in part to some astute auxiliary players. The two also connect their instrumental acumen with lyrics that veer from drama to devotion, resulting in a sound that’s stirred with relevance, reflection, and absolute intent. It holds attention from track to track, varying the palette just enough to keep the interest intact.
Both touching and traditional, Thirty Years Later provides enjoyment in a timeless fashion.