Artist: Chris Williams
Album: New Beginnings
Review by Matthew Warnock

New Beginnings is an entertaining and intelligently crafted instrumental guitar album by former Nashville guitarist, and current Charleston resident, Chris Williams.  Each of the album’s twelve songs features Williams playing all of the instruments, including bass, percussion, keyboards and several different guitars, with the one exception being the track “Wishful Thinking,” which features Bobby Shettles on bass.  For a guitarist who recently worked with Motley Crue drummer Tommy Lee in the studio, the album may not be as hard rocking as one would expect, but Williams’ sonic and musical diversity is one of the keys to the album’s success,.
Songs such as the acoustic “Your Destiny” and “Good Intentions” are contrasted with heavier classic rock influenced “For Sale By Me” and the quasi-industrial track “Octave Groove,” which features some of Williams’ best lead playing on the record.  By choosing to feature different sides of musical personality, all of which are grounded in solid tone, groove and technique, Williams expands the normal expectations of an instrumental rock guitar album.  This isn’t a Steve Vai, Joe Satriani or Paul Gilbert album, though traces of these great players flow through Williams’ lead lines.  The diversity and personalized approach to the genre are what make this album unique, listenable and worthy of greater attention from the instrumental guitar crowd.
From a playing standpoint, Williams has a knack for hooks that help lock his songs into the listener’s psyche.  These are not the typical pop hooks that one would hear on Top 40 radio, nor are they Zeppelin or Deep Purple type repetitive rock riffs.  They lie somewhere in between, in the realm of being memorable without beating the listener over the head with their simplicity.  Songs such as “Good Intentions” and “Spontaneous” are good examples of Williams’ melodic approach.  Both songs contain soaring lead lines that are mixed in with repeated riffs that draw the listener’s attention to the melodic content of the work.  Though he possesses world-class chops, it is his attention to melodic detail that elevates Williams’ playing above the crowd.  Where other players would turn to flash, Williams digs deep on the groove and lays down a memorable melody.
The only distractions are moments like the drum machine on “Cool Ending.”  Using a drum machine is a valid choice for any instrumental guitar album, but in this instance the drums sound too processed for the context of the song.   Williams lays down a great guitar track, accompanied by pads on the keyboards, but the repetitive drum loop with its high-pitched cymbal pattern takes away from the melody.  Though this song isn’t as successful as others on the record, it is a rare instance here.  Other songs that feature a techno-electronic influence, such as “When Angels Sing,” are solidly written and the added electronic instruments only increase the song’s success.  
New Beginnings is a well-written and masterfully played instrumental rock album.  Though there are a few down moments on the record, it is a strong outing that not only serves as a window into the guitarist’s musical vision, but should act as a stepping stone into many exciting opportunities in the future for the South Carolina picker.

Review by Matthew Warnock


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