Where most country acts insist the crowd hoot, stomp and clap, Don Williams is content to cast a spell. Last night under the skies at Marshall High School in Falls Church, Williams worked a simple magic with his gentle, rumbling baritone in some of country's simplest, most heartfelt tunes. On many of his songs, like Bob McDill's "Come Early Morning," he achieved a conversational intimacy with his audience that transformed a football field into Williams' front porch.
Part of the beauty that Don Williams so effortlessly evokes in his paeans to love and family life is due to the subtle and exquisite arrangements of his four-piece group, the Scratch Band. Lead guitarist Danny Flowers shone throughout the night with his fluid leads and fills, including a funky workout on his own "Living on Tulsa Time." Williams and his band didn't set anything on fire, but they cast a warm glow that by the end of the night had the audience in a state of reverence.
The opening act, Lee Greenwood, turned in an entertaining and versatile set that marks him as a talented newcomer to country music. His husky voice and hit ballad, "It Turns Me Inside Out," suggested a Kenny Rogers sound-alike. But Greenwood's performance was much harder rocking and grittier than Rogers has been in years. In fact, Greenwood's soulful singing and keyboard playing on "Tennessee Waltz" was in the best country cum gospel tradition of Ray Charles.