The debut of New York based singer/songwriter Roy Williams, aka Brother Roy, is a retro late '60s/early '70s sounding effort reminiscent of The Band and Harry Nilsson with touches of Randy Newman, Bob Dylan, The Beatles and Spectoresque arrangements. The influence of The Band is most prominent on tracks such as "Carolina" and "Mary" on which Williams' vocals also recall the growl of Dr. John.
The presence of Nilsson is felt throughout the effort from the opening "Heartbreaker," something of an homage to Nilsson's irreverent "You're Breaking My Heart." Piano driven tracks such as "Sunshine Lady" and "Let Us Not Worry" specifically recall the 1970 album "Nilsson Sings Newman." Often multiple influences are prominent within the same track as with "Brother Sam," which begins as a Newman style piano track, but gradually transitions into a bluesy rocker that ends with John Lennon type primal screams from 1970's "Plastic Ono Band."
One of the stronger tracks is "A Man Like Me," a tale of relationship challenged by a man's insecurities ("What kind of woman in this world would want a man like me?") evocative of some of Dylan's collaborations with The Band. "Come On By the House," which voices optimism with the assertion "I believe in these times," followed by a Beatles reference ("Yes I believe all you need is love"), suggesting the times believed in are in the past, and the weary pessimism of the closing "Strange World" ("It's a strange life we're given") provide highlights as well.
Co-produced by Williams and drummer Brian Geltner the stellar instrumentation and background vocals were recorded predominantly live with little overdubbing. Notable contributors are Mike Barnett (Ricky Skaggs and Kentucky Thunder) on fiddle, Eddie Barbash (Jon Batiste & Stay Human) on alto sax, Dominick Leslie on mandolin and John Shannon on electric guitar.
With lush, tasteful arrangements to Williams' strong compositions, "Last Man Standing" is an ambitious inaugural project that succeeds admirably.