If you’ve read any of my recent posts you know that there is about a 5% chance I can be objective about this review. But I think that’s ok, since I believe music is all about how it makes you feel and where it finds you at the time. And that’s why we love it so much.
I first encountered Zach while he was still in college and I was just out of college working. He had just started writing and performing his own songs and his shows soon became Must-See Events due to his stage intensity and hilarious manner while in the spotlight. You were never quite sure if he’d say something ridiculous or have an aneurysm on the spot. And it was wonderful.
Eventually Zach and some friends moved to Brooklyn to live in community together and try their lives in the big city of NY. Zach continued making music and growing as a performer and an artist. Meanwhile I moved from FL to ME for a summer, then settled in AL for grad school. As Zach released new pieces of his musical repertoire on the Internet I devoured each piece, as for me, Zach Williams is home. His music is easily accessible from the first chord to the last note and his first big studio release, Story Time is no different.
Story Time opens with Names That Fell, a simply song that builds and builds into a frenzied finish. It showcases Zach at his best, telling a story with music that has layers and meaning while maintaining a frantic pace. That song fades in Fears, one of my all-time favorite songs that has undergone (by my iTunes count) at least 6 transformations. It is a song about a conversation about leaving home, a theme that resonates with almost everyone. The funky vibe laid down by Williams’ backing band enhances the song to the point where it fills a room.
And so it goes, with Zach leading the charge with lyrics and vocals that impress the listener that this is something that actually matters to him, something that he has lived and experienced. Zach’s backing band is a group of classically trained jazz musicians that provide just the right amount of structure and tightness to his songs, without unduly harnessing the energy there. Songs like James and Hospital Dream were born out of tragedy but maintain a redeeming quality about them. Mountain Water and Take Care provide the ebb and flow that makes this album so good for work and play, relaxing and going, for any occasion really.
I’ve struggled to think of artists that Zach is similar to, but he is definitely in the singer/songwriter vein, akin to Joe Purdy, M.Ward, Ryan Adams, Ray LaMontagne, and with a little Damien Rice mixed in. But Zach is also his own man, writing from his own life and experience and inviting the listener in to the highs and lows that are universally experienced.