I’m just going to say up front that, while I get that Ferlin Husky is an important figure in country music, he just doesn’t do it for me. So, congratulations Mr. Husky, but I just cannot get that excited.
But Don Williams? I’m really emotional about it. Almost embarrassingly so. I think Don Williams just has one of the most beautiful voices of the 20th century, hands down, across genres.
And you can really hear it in “Amanda.” Here’s Waylon’s version, which, of course, is awesome, a classic. But Jennings’s voice has that one range. So, when he hits that first “Amanda,” it sounds like it should go up, but he clearly can’t get there (that’s why the background singer goes up instead). It works because it’s a song about defeat a little bit, so a guy not being able to hit the high notes is exactly fitting for the song.
But listen to how Williams handles that same problem. He does a little almost yodel in there, gives you a little hitch in his voice in the middle of “Amanda,” so instead of the whole word not going up at the end like you might expect, it sounds instead like it’s just settling down after he gets a little artistic hitch in his voice, thinking about her.
I’m not saying that his version is better than Jennings’s. Both are genius, but I think for different reasons. Having two true artists take on the song just gives you a chance to compare and contrast their strategies for taking on the song.
Williams is also the king of songs that really just get at the basic longing of the human condition. Let’s take “Love Me Tonight.” The whole song is basically “Hell yes, woman, let’s fuck.” But something in his delivery makes you feel like whatever longing he’s trying to satiate can really only be held at bay. People, I don’t mean to gush, but just listen to how he delivers that first verse. That will break your heart, right there.
Even through the terrible “We’ve just given you a drum machine to sing in front of” years, Williams managed this gem.
And if you have not prayed this prayer (or one similar), I have to doubt you’ve ever actually prayed.
I think this is his most important song, but it’s hard for me to talk about it.
Anyway, Don Williams is going into the Hall of Fame.
And he deserves it.