Just a few short years ago and you’d never have heard of a major label in Nashville releasing a project like Better Than Myself but, to quote Alex Williams on “Hell Bent Hallelujah,” the winds of change are turning. It’s a post-Sturgill, Post-Stapleton and Post-Isbell era we’re living in where artists who bring the traditions from country music’s past back to the present. That’s exactly what Alex Williams does on Better Than Myself, his sterling 12 track collection of songs released via Big Machine Records and produced by Julian Raymond.
“More Than Survival” blends southern rock with outlaw sounds and if there’s any song on Better Than Myself which might play well on mainstream radio it would be this one, a song about figuring out how to have a little fun even when you’re just surviving. It’s really a song of the times and one that is very relatable. There are moments on this record where you swear you’ve been transported back in time, if not for the modern lyrics. “Freak Flag” is one such song. The lyrics don’t exactly make sense in parts but that’s really the point of the song, be who you are, no matter if you’re a ‘freak’ or ‘normal.’ The title track is a sly slice of writing that recalls Willie Nelson, especially with the balance of acoustic guitars, Mickey Raphael-assisted harmonica and lyrics about a reckless, ramblin’ journeyman who is self-aware to know that his music is good but he will also ignore the haters who try to bring him down in the process.
“Week Without A Drink” is another slice of sharp, sly songwriting with Williams saying all the things he’d be seen doing before he’d go a week without a little alcohol in his life. The honest songwriting from the school of Waylon arrives on songs like “Old Tattoo” and “Little Too Stoned” and “Pay No Mind,” all of them with slices of independence weaved into their stories. The wonderful “Few Short Miles (Bobby’s Song)” is a classic story song about the impact we can have on other people, if we only take the time to listen. Bobby sounds like he was one hell of a guy. And so is Alex Williams if you take Alex at his word from the 12 tracks on Better Than Myself. Alex Williams is an artist who is right up there with Jamey Johnson, Jason Isbell, and Chris Stapleton is letting their individualist yet reverential brand of country music “Freak Flag” fly.