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Rob Williams at Gypsy Sally’s

Richmond, Virginia-based singer-songwriter Rob Williams performed at Gypsy Sally’s Vinyl Lounge in Georgetown last Wednesday, offering spirited renderings of original songs new and old, along with a couple of beautifully rendered covers. This performance was the first of a short tour that will take Williams and his musical partner, Turtle Zwadlo (accompanying on acoustic bass), through Ohio and back down through Virginia.

Drawing heavily on songs from his album, An Hour Before Daylight, released last year on Evertone Records, Williams and Zwaldo expertly picked (and grinned) their way through nearly three hours (over two sets) of Americana-tinged, bluesy folk songs. Fans of the late, great Jim Croce will recognize his influence both in Williams’ vocals as well as his “story” songs. “Butte, Montana 1885” was inspired by perusing old newspapers at the Library of Congress; “The Old North State” is the story of Rob’s parents settling in Virginia from North Carolina prior to his birth. Delving into his country identity, Rob pulled off a gorgeous “Blue” by Lucinda Williams, revving up the tempo but losing none of the song’s charm and heartbreak. The evening’s second cover was the 1973 Faces song, “Ooh Ooh La La,” that preceded the evening’s masterpiece, “Goodnight, Illinois,” which was so beautifully done, the audience asked for it again, a request Williams graciously granted to close the show.

I had a chance to chat with Williams and Zwaldo during the course of the evening on such topics as songwriting, performing, family, and the music world in general. What I came away with was how hard it is to be a local musician, chasing a dream, while maintaining one’s commitment and dedication to the craft. Wednesday’s show was a reminder of the ample rewards of pursuing one’s dreams and the joy of live music, both for the audience as well as the artist. I, for one, look forward to experiencing Rob’s music again soon. Photos/review: Mark Caicedo