SHIPPENSBURG, PA (March 4, 2014) - The H. Ric Luhrs Performing Arts Center at Shippensburg University presents AN EVENING WITH DON WILLIAMS, Saturday, March 22, 2014 at 8 p.m. Reserved tickets are $55, $50, $45 & $35 and are now on sale. A group discount is available for groups of 20 or more. Tickets can be purchased by calling the Luhrs Center Box Office at 717.477.SHOW (7469) or online at luhrscenter.com.
They came to call Don Williams "the Gentle Giant" in the decades he was a dominating country hit maker because of his unique blend of commanding presence and that laid-back, easy style that has appealed to adult men and women alike-cutting across national and genre boundaries. If those personal and musical qualities stood out strongly across the 1970s, ‘80s and ‘90s, they are all the more distinctive nowadays, when so many country and pop records seem to work as check off lists of somebody's idea of how to be a man, or hard-sell attempts to indicate affection for a woman. Don Williams has never sounded like he felt the need to sell somebody something, or to prove anything.
On his album, And So It Goes, that winning, self-assured ease is front and center, and the musical style that has made Don a ballad vocal model for performers ranging from Eric Clapton (with whom he'd traded songs-"Tulsa Time," "Lay Down Sally") to Keith Urban (who guests on this release). One listen to the characteristically right-on-target vocals on this first Don Williams recording in eight years and his admirers wondered what he had done to maintain that strength over the hiatus.
"Well, there are things that I don't do," Don laughs. "I don't do a whole lot of sitting around chit-chatting, laughing, and carrying on-especially when I'm on the road, where that just makes you tired, anyway. Even at home on the farm there are literally days on end that I may not say anything but for an hour or two a day."
This man who so clearly loves the quiet home life can still fill an auditorium or stadium across the U.S., the U.K., Europe and Africa; his special role as an international ambassador for American country and pop music is ongoing and his musical appeal, he has long since been astonished to find, is about the same from the Central Time Zone to central Africa.
"The weird thing about that is-no; I don't change my show to go play England or Nairobi. I can pretty much choose anything from my repertoire and it works wherever I am, and that still amazes me, because you're talking about different cultures, sometimes different languages, and the whole nine yards."
The hundreds of memorable songs in that repertoire-over fifty of them major hits-whether contemplative ballads, affecting love songs or change-up rhythm numbers, have always been a core Don Williams strength and focus. Don and long-time producer Garth Fundis, who returns in that role on Don's latest album, each credit the other with having contributed to their own song-picking and sequencing skills-skills well put to shared use again when Nashville's finest writers submitted hundreds of songs for consideration for Don's return to recording. They both knew what they were looking for in selections that would appear on And So It Goes. "They're very well written, they're interesting, and the melody and the lyric are saying the same thing," Don says. "Even when we're starting looking for the songs, just experimenting, Garth and I are just in agreement; we just want to make good music that touches our hearts and, hopefully, touches others' in the process. For many years, though, Garth has fussed at me about one thing- that we need to be sure and do whatever song that I wrote, because I would just pass over it. I get more excited about a new song that I've just heard than I do my own material!" (There are, in fact, two Don Williams co-writes among the ten outstanding songs on his latest release.)
Riding and crossing the line between country and pop, and all the more distinctive for doing it, Don brought a sound and sensibility to the country charts that proved a smash-a development that was initially a surprise even to him.
"When I was just a wee lad," he recalls, "I really appreciated people like Johnny Horton, Johnny Cash and Jim Reeves; all of those guys back then meant a lot to me, but at the same time, I really loved Brook Benton, and the Platters and all of those people. But even when I was ‘in pop' myself, with everything that I wrote, the only people who really seemed to appreciate it were country fans. That has to tell you a little bit about where your heart's at, whether your head agrees with it or not!"
Born in Floydada, Florida in 1939 and growing up near Corpus Christi, Texas, Don was playing guitar by age twelve, taught by his mother, and performed in folk, country and rock bands as a teenager. He first gained musical attention as a member of the pop folk trio The Pozo Seco Singers, which had six pop chart hits in 1966-'67, then was signed as a songwriter by Nashville's Cowboy Jack Clement in 1971-the sort of songwriter whose demos demanded attention. Between 1974 and 1991, Don had at least one major hit every year, including such country standards to be as " Good Ole Boys Like Me," "Till the Rivers All Run Dry," "It Must Be Love," "I'm Just a Country Boy," "Amanda" and "I Believe in You." He also had a hit duet with Emmylou Harris on Townes Van Zandt's "If I Needed You." Don was the CMA Male Vocalist of the Year in 1978; his "Tulsa Time" was the ACM Record of the Year for 1979.
In 2010, Don received country music's highest honor, with his induction into the Country Music Hall of Fame. He was still surprised: "I never really thought that I was viewed in that manner by the powers that be. It's an incredible honor, to be added to the caliber of people that are on that roster. It's pretty overwhelming, actually."
Learn more about Don Williams at www.don-williams.com.
Singer-songwriter, Colm Kirwan, will be opening for Don Williams at his Luhrs Center performance.
Hailing from the small Northern Ireland town of Omagh, Colm Kirwan wasn't sure exactly what to expect when he moved to Nashville, Tennessee in 2009. He only had two goals in mind-creating his own unique sound as an artist and becoming a great songwriter. With the release of his self-titled debut, he will be one album closer to accomplishing those goals.
For Colm, the road to Nashville and the creation of the album, a contemporary country collection with a Celtic flair, was filled with twists and turns. At 18, he left his small hometown for London, where he studied musical theatre performance for three years before hitting the road as an apostle in Andrew Lloyd Webber's Jesus Christ Superstar. The rock opera gave him a taste for the stage that only grew when he left the production to tour with his dad, hit recording artist Dominic Kirwan, on a seven-week tour.
"I remember the first time I ever stood on stage with my dad to a sold-out theatre in Belfast," Colm says. "To me, that's where I belong. It just felt right-it always has. If there's one place I'm totally comfortable, it's on stage."
The tour was his chance to finally perform the type of music he grew up loving-country. After three years of touring with his dad, Colm came to Nashville at the suggestion of a friend who had spotted his raw talent for songwriting. Ever since, he has honed his uncanny sound and songwriting ability, culminating in the creation of his first album, produced by Victoria Shaw. It will be released on April 19 in the U.K. and Ireland while he tours with country legend Don Williams. The U.S. release is slated for late summer.
"I don't want to be an artist that's big just in America," he says. "I want to be an artist who tours worldwide. There's such a big world out there that loves a lot of this music."
Colm's objective for the album and the tour is simple-to continue creating the music in his head, sifting through the ideas until they come together to create his signature country Celtic sound.
Read more about Colm Kirwan at www.colmkirwanmusic.com.
For additional information about the Don Williams performance, or other performances within the 2013-2014 Luhrs Center series, please call the Luhrs Center Box Office at 717.477.SHOW (7469) or visit the Luhrs Center website at luhrscenter.com.