Kevin Williams is back with another instrumental album! It has apparently been in the works for quite a while. A year ago, Kevin told me he’d been hoping to get it out then, but things had fallen through. Now it’s available for our enjoyment.
Unlike Kevin’s last project, Acoustic Sunday, the style on this project is orchestral and nostalgic. Kevin’s guitar weaves in and out of thick orchestrations, with some background singers sprinkled in too. Personally, I find BGVs on instrumentals rather distracting, so I probably could have done without them on at least some of these tracks. However, Kevin’s guitar generally isn’t “smothered,” even though it’s a bit more subdued than usual. Out of twelve tracks, only a couple are up-tempo. Most of them find Kevin lazily, jazzily picking his way through such perennial chestnuts as “White Christmas,” “I’ll Be Home For Christmas,” and “The Christmas Song.”
The track that easily stands out the most to me is “Sleigh Ride.” It’s very hard for a full orchestra to go wrong on this number, and Kevin’s guitar puts a great twist on the classic arrangement. It’s the one track where Kevin “lets himself go” a bit and does a little improv towards the end. “Let it Snow” is a bit more straightforward but similar in tone.
“Hark the Herald Angels Sing” is another standout track, featuring some beautiful piano playing which is lushly interwoven with the guitar and orchestra.
One neat thing about these arrangements is because they don’t take many liberties with the songs, it encourages easy sing-a-long. Upon listening to “O Holy Night,” I was so caught up in the song that I was actually inspired to go out into the garage (cold as it was), and try out my “chops” on the high notes. It’s another song where the full orchestra adds a lot of excitement.
One of the things that I loved about Acoustic Sunday was the way each acoustic instrument was creatively selected and blended together to make that casual, coffee-house jam sound. I think a Christmas project following the same pattern with the same musicians could have been really cool. But Kevin chose to aim for a mellow, orchestral approach instead, which is also good in its own way. (It’s also possible that he intended to record with the same musicians, but for whatever reason it didn’t work out.) The thing is that because of the deliberately straightforward, low-key style, you can feel him pulling back and not really showing what he’s fully capable of. This works perfectly for his intended effect, but those looking for really innovative music may be disappointed. If you want something fresh and creative where Kevin really gets to cut loose, check out Acoustic Sunday. But if you want something familiar and nostalgic that would make perfect background music for tree-decorating, Christmas-cookie-baking, or a Christmas party, this is the album for you.
(Note: I seem to be having a spot of difficulty finding where it’s available from, as Kevin’s old web page seems to have disappeared. I will post a link when I find it. Meanwhile, here’s a sampler.)
[Update: Here's the link.]
Review copy provided.