This should have been recorded live. A fine studio production could have been a superb live production, for it is obvious that William Wyatt's real strength is performance. Blessed with a unique voice and a certain amount of roots credibility, he is ready-made for the coffeehouse and country fair circuits, band or no band, and one can only imagine what Hollywood & Rose might have been, recorded under such circumstances. Of course, we will never know and what Wyatt has left for us is good even if it could be better (most musicians I know are never satisfied and always think what they do could be better). The studio has just toned down what might have been.
Ten songs are presented, the best of which float around Wyatt's folk roots. There is a hint of Dylan here and there, thanks mainly to acoustic harmonica, and it works well as does Wyatt's phrasing, much of which ends phrases with a slight waver. There are also ghosts of John Prine and Steve Goodman and a host of other folk composers in the songwriting. Only ghosts, though, as Wyatt struggles with the poetic muse upon which the greats lay their claim. Occasionally, though, the performance overcomes the material and Wyatt strikes a note of consequence, as in Hold My Hand, an R&B/folk hybrid which echoes the Holmes Brothers at their softest, and Good Things In Life, an introspective folk ballad. Besides his phrasing, Wyatt stands out by his choice of musicians, for the musicianship is prime, especially the electric guitars of Rusty Wright and Mike Balavitch, whose sense of touch is beyond the norm, as is Neil Woodward's banjo on Country Night.
There is a lot about Wyatt to like. His approach to the music is personal and warm. You can hear it in the way he delivers a tune, the way he wraps his harmonica around the beginning and end of a song. He's probably a nice guy, even. But nice falls short on an album full of mundane rhymes and trite phrases. Wyatt's music tells me he has more to offer. He just needs to take some time and find how to deliver.
An aside: It pains me to sound negative, especially when a musician has put his or her music on the line, but I'm really not. I like this CD and have played it for a solid month trying to dissect it fairly. The verdict is that while this is not the album I would want, there is enough here to make me want to follow Wyatt as he works toward that point in the future at which everything melds. He has the talent. I hopefully have the time.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
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