By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Alice Laussade
By Scott Reitz
Hailing from a small Oklahoma town just north of the Red River, John Lyle Williams makes it into the metroplex fairly consistently, performing his stylish country/folk/blues at open mics, coffee houses or just about any place that will let him set down his guitar case.
Unsent Letters is his self-financed debut, but Williams has been writing songs (in and out of various bands) for a couple of decades, and that sense of experience and expertise shines through on each and every cut. Williams possesses a high, aching voice, well suited to the soul-searching of his songs. Coming across like a fascinating cross between James Taylor and Tom Waits, Williams' cracking tenor adds weight to his sincere and consistent country-laced songwriting. Backed up by longtime friends Daniel Tarbox and Mitch Stuckert, the dozen cuts on Letters sparkle with flourishes of mandolin, dulcimer and harmonica.
"Get What You Want," "Worse or Better" and especially "The 13th" are numbers of rare introspection for someone beating around the countryside looking for a place to play. Perhaps it is exactly the struggle that helps Williams define himself and find his place in the widely defined Americana genre. In any case, Unsent Letters is one of those secret little treasures just waiting to be discovered, a mature work produced from raw emotion and the kind of brutal honesty that has always colored the best rural music.
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