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Tessy Lou Williams

Tessy Lou Williams – 2020 ( Self-released)

Reviewed by Jim Hynes

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CDs by Tessy Lou Williams

Welcome country traditionalist Tessy Lou Williams who hails from Montana, the daughter of two musicians who emigrated from Nashville to Willow Creek, Mont. (population:210). Her parents toured with their three children, so Williams grew up surrounded by talented musicians and songwriters. Now, she finds herself making the reverse trip to Nashville to record this self-titled debut as a solo artist after two albums as Tessy Lou and the Shotgun Stars. Williams, who has spent almost a decade in the Austin music scene, has a traditional sound and smooth, well-honed honky-tonk vocals.

Yes, this is music made for the dancehalls with requisite doses of heartbreak, recorded in Nashville with some of the city's best session players such as Bryan Sutton, Mike Johnson, Aubrey Haynie and Greg Morrow. Background vocals owe to an equally stellar cast of names including Carl Jackson, Jerry Salley, Jon Randall, Wes Hightower, Brennen Leigh and producer Luke Wooten.

Williams is the co-writer on 6 of 10 working with Salley, Leigh, Larry Cordle, and Leslie Satcher. Satcher's "Why Do I Still Want You" is filled with the desperate pain of an awkward goodbye. Williams delivers the heartbreak again on up-tempo co-write with Salley "Busy Counting Bridges." "Mountain Time in Memphis" which they also co-wrote, could be interpreted as autobiographical as it's an old-time banjo-driven heartbreaker about a woman torn between a new life in Tennessee and the love she left behind in Montana.

"Midnight Arms" has some of that waltz-like western swing while "Someone Lonely," her dad's song, is a superb, pedal steel imbued ballad. Of course, we have a drinking song, the co-write with Leigh, "Somebody's Drinking About You." She closes with a reverent take on Webb Pierce's classic "Pathway of Teardrops" with Randall on the harmony vocal. This is unadorned, straight-ahead country music, the kind that we fell in love in the days of AM radio.