Zane Williams has built a reputation through writing and singing traditional-influenced story country songs. In fact, his big break came from the song “Hurry Home,” a song that won the John Lennon Songwriting Contest in 2005. That led to the song being cut by Jason Michael Carroll, and a record deal with Big Yellow Dog Music. Zane Williams has an appreciation for country music that tells stories, so much so, that he posted a video on his Facebook page talking about country’s current state.
“I’ve always loved country music the best. And when I first discovered country music, what I fell in love with about it was that the lyrics were real… They were story songs. Songs that made you laugh, made you cry.”
Williams goes on to say that country needs to go back to more songs like that and away from constant, good-time, party songs. He specifically praises Aaron Watson, Sunny Sweeny, Will Hoge, and Sturgill Simpson for creating the type of country music he grew up on. In response to this video, fellow Texas country singer Chris King challenged Zane Williams on his comments. King calls out a few of the songs on Williams’ new album Texas Like That for being the type of song that Zane Williams complains about in the video. The conversation ultimately came to an “agree to disagree” conclusion, but it certainly adds a bit of intrigue coming into this review.
The opening track for Texas Like That is a folksy, acoustic driven song called “Feelin’ Free.” The song speaks of the free feeling of driving on the open road under the clear night sky. The instrumentation is right at home in Texas country with some fiddle and banjo breakdowns. Up next is “Throwback” which is the song Chris King called Zane Williams out on. The song sounds like it has a drum machine loop behind a spoken word, rap-like lyric delivery from Williams. The song is about how Williams is more old-fashioned in his way of doing things: saying “yes ma’am,” opening doors, etc. It’s not a bro song or party song, but the production isn’t quite country, and the material is a little juvenile, so I can see where King is coming from in his response. But I would argue that “Throwback” isn’t the worst on the album.
“Summer Rain” is a lust song with a slow tempo production. He describes this woman’s good looks and compares his desire for her to a “summer rain on thirsty ground.” There’s some authenticity to the production and some nice harmonies pop in halfway through the song. “She Is” is a bit more natural when it comes to a good, modern country love song. The production is simple with the guitar and drum melodies. The song depicts their relationship and how complex women can be, but that’s joy of their life together. Up next is “Just Gettin’ Started.” No, it’s not the Jason Aldean song, but it very much could be. Zane Williams comes close to rapping again in this one. The song, though is about how he wants to make love last with this girl. It’s very bro-like in the way he describes wanting to be with her, but when he says he’s only getting started, Zane Williams refers to their life, rather than their night. Still the rapping and delivery of the story take away from the lyrics. I guess maybe you could see this as a clever parody, maybe? But it comes across as a sincere song, and I think it’s another that seems suspect in the light of Zane’s video.
With that said, Zane Williams does have a song here that’s everything he loves about country music. “Jayton and Jill” is a ballad about the start of lifelong friendship. Jayton is a nobody working a dead-end job and Jill is the rebel daughter of a verbally abusive pastor. After Jill’s boyfriend gets angry at her for saying “no” in the car, he hits her and leaves her on the side of the road. Later on, Jayton is driving down the road and sees her. He brings her home, they talk all night, and become great friends. Williams describes how their friendship helped both their lost souls, and how the night they met saved their lives. It’s a beautiful, acoustic song that tells a wonderful story of a small town friendship. “Jayton and Jill” is the best song on this album, and there’s a fairly good chance it’ll make the cut on my top ten list this month. “Here’s to You” is a tribute song Williams wrote for his fans. It has a good, foot stomping country beat. For a singer with five albums and who’s toured relentlessly to earn his stripes, it’s a nice gesture. Also I like the country instrumental concluding the song featuring a fiddle, mandolin, and guitar.
“Kansas City Sunrise” is a song about a divorce. When the relationship started, he moved to Kansas City for her to build their life together. But now they’re finished and he’s moving on and away from the city in order to start fresh. This is another good country, heartbreak ballad that shifts to a more positive light as the song progresses. On “Love Is on Our Side” sings of how life is hitting them hard, but with love on their side, he feels confident they’ll push through the hard times. The production is a bit more upbeat and is nothing but country. Texas Like That ends with the title track. This song is an ode to the Texas creed. A hard-working man who won’t let age slow him down. A woman who’s equally hardworking, tough, and pretty. It’s a pandering song that connects to one group of people, and if you’re not from Texas then it’s a song that you just brush off.
Overall, Texas Like That is a good offering from Zane Williams. Even with a few songs with mainstream Music Row influences, Williams has some good, honest country tunes to counteract them. For the most part, though, this album just sort of sits in the middle of the road. Some songs with overdone topics get a fresh sound with the production and some I could do without. But for the most part, I think Zane Williams puts his money where his mouth is in regards to his recent Facebook video. Songs like “Jayton and Jill” and “Kansas City Sunrise” are true country story ballads that should be heard.