Josh Williams would be the first to tell you he’s heavily influenced by Tony Rice – vocally and instrumentally. Rice has had vocal-cord problems since the ’90s, and in a cosmic “irony,” arthritis has made playing guitar difficult – robbing the bluegrass world of one of its great singers and possibly its best flatpicker ever.
Not that Williams is a carbon copy or can “replace” Rice, but the similarity will bring a smile to ’grass fans when his voice dips down for a baritone phrase or a fleet, round-toned lick shoots by so quickly, the banjo has taken over while you’re still digesting what you just heard – as on Tom T Hall’s “Another Town.”
Banjo legend J.D. Crowe produced this gem, and in addition to Williams’ formidable talents, it features Rob Ickes’ Dobro and pedal steel great Doug Jernigan.
Williams cut his first album when he was 10, but this is the first in six years for the award-winning 36-year-old, best known for his work with Rhonda Vincent and the Rage. The bandleader was forced to fire Williams in ’07, owing to drugs and alcohol, but it’s a testament to his recovery and Vincent’s faith in him that she rehired him in 2012. Welcome back, Josh.
This article originally appeared in VG‘s October ’16 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.