Sam Williams started to garner international attention when he released a cover of ‘Weatherman’, a song originally recorded by his father Hank Williams Jr. In 2019 he toured the UK supporting Cam and word quickly started to spread about just how talented a musician he is. The grandson of Hank Williams, Sam has tried to resist his musical calling and he told us recently of the pressures that exist for children in famous musical dynasties. Thankfully, Williams decided to embrace his destiny and ‘Glasshouse Children’, released today, is his debut album.
One of the hardest things for any artist to do is establish their own sound, and that’s even more difficult when you’re from a famous musical family. While ‘Glasshouse Children’ has been labelled ‘a Country record’, the 10-song set actually draws from a wider range of genres than just Country. In his journey to finding his own voice and sound, Williams has followed his instincts and the end result is an album that’s easily a contender for album of the year. I’d struggle to recall another album released this year, that has the musical variety and depth that ‘Glasshouse Children’ has.
Opening with the title track, Williams draws you in with beautiful orchestration and his unmistakeable voice. Immediately captivating, Williams’ voice is one that has known pain and that resonates in every word he sings. How someone still in his 20s can sing so deeply from the soul is astonishing and the way his voice moves you is something that so few artists are able to do. ‘Glasshouse Children’ is a moody opener that perfectly sets the tone for the record, showcasing Williams an artist happy to take risks and venture into territory that few others would dare.
‘Happy All The Time’, a collaboration with Dolly Parton, hits you from all angles. The youth and pain of Williams contrasts beautifully with the experience and wisdom of Parton as they sing about how money can’t buy you happiness. Their voices are so different but they complement each other fantastically. The song is a reminder that material things aren’t what’s important in life, a message that hits even harder as we start to come out of the pandemic. On ‘Can’t Fool Your Own Blood’, co-written with Mary Gauthier, Williams veers into Americana and delivers one of his best vocals on the record. Lyrically the song explores the idea that you can’t hide the truth from members of your family, or yourself, no matter how hard you try.
Elsewhere on the album ‘Bulleit Blues’ is a 92 second acoustic track that strips everything down allowing you to hear Williams unfiltered, which contrasts with the poppier ’10-4’, a tale of budding romance and the rush that comes with it. Keith Urban features on ‘Kids’, a song that channels 80s sounds while Williams sings of the challenges of growing up and leaving your adolescence behind. It features the album’s catchiest chorus and could be a big radio hit for Williams in the months to come.
The album’s highlight for me is ‘Hopeless Romanticism’, a song that steps into alt-pop territory and deals with Williams’ belief that he falls for people too quickly. The sparse instrumentation on the verses pushes Williams’ voice into the spotlight before giving way to an atmospheric chorus that quickly turns into a total earworm. It’s unlike anything else on the album and its addictive rhythm ensures you won’t forget it easily.
The album closer ‘The World: Alone’ turns out to be the record’s most hard-hitting moment. It was released in 2020 following the death of William’s sister Katie, and while it wasn’t written about her, the sentiment hits hard in the wake of that tragic event. Williams sings about having to go through life, and travel the world, without someone by his side. It’s heart-breaking, it’s musically bold and it’s impossible to listen to without tearing up.
‘Glasshouse Children’ is the kind of debut album that will be talked about for a long time to come. No one is making music like Williams is right now, and no one is packing in the raw emotion and lyrical complexity that he is either. From start to finish, ‘Glasshouse Children’ is nothing short of a masterpiece and if this is his starting point, it would seem the sky is the limit for what may come next. With the release of this album, we could very well be witnessing the birth of an artist that could go on to define a generation.
Track listing: 1. Glasshouse Children 2. Happy All The Time (feat. Dolly Parton) 3. Can’t Fool Your Own Blood 4. Bulleit Blues 5. 10-4 6. Wild Girl 7. Kids (feat. Keith Urban) 8. Shuteye 9. Hopeless Romanticism 10. The World: Alone Record label: Snakefarm Records Release date: 20th August 2021 Buy ‘Glasshouse Children’ now