If you’re going to chronicle the cowboy lifestyle in your music, you’d best have the cred to back it up. Chancey Williams, a neo-traditionalist act out of Wyoming, is the certified real deal, having ridden his share of broncs and formerly competing in rodeos before turning to the performing life. He’s already on to his fifth album, 3rd Street, currently in release and featuring the wistful ballad “Wyoming Wind,” named the 2020 Rocky Mountain CMA Song of the Year. This record, coupled with his planned tour dates with Toby Keith later this year, seems poised to take Williams and his able backing group, the Younger Brothers Band, from regional favorite to national smash.
Williams’ rodeo background draws the inevitable comparisons to Chris LeDoux, and they do hold the distinction as the only two artists to both compete and sing at the mammoth Cheyenne Frontier Days rodeo. Like LeDoux, Williams tends to paint a more realistic, rather than romanticized, view of the cowboy life. “Fastest Gun in Town,” for good example, talks about the tough-as-leather world of professional rodeo, where, That number on your shirt is like a bulls-eye on your back. That hurts just hearing it. But it’s not all grit and mud in your face. The kick-butt opener “The World Needs More Cowboys,” written by Williams and the album’s producer Trent Willmon, is a fun tune that would liven up any honky tonk. The song includes a cool, swing-y fiddle break by the band’s Brooke Latka (the female member of the Younger Brothers), who’s deservedly showcased throughout the record. Her bouncy fiddle intro is perfect for “Outlaws,” where the entire band gets the chance to shine. The rowdy “College” features a guest vocal by the always reliable Kevin Fowler.
“Wyoming Wind” would certainly be the gem of the album, a ballad of longing and hope that takes an unexpected, and poignant, turn as it concludes. Written by David Stewart and Taylor Corum, “Wyoming Wind” finds the appropriate landing spot with Williams, who has the right, plaintive voice to capture the character’s wandering ways. “Let It Go” further shows that Williams can slow it down when needed, showing a sensitive, romantic side. Easily the nicest surprise of the whole exercise is the cover of “Meet Me in Montana,” a huge duet chart-topper for Dan Seals and Marie Osmond in 1985, with fiddle player Latka taking on Osmond’s role. It’s a great choice and fits well with Williams’ outdoorsy image. Give the team a tip of the cowboy hat for bringing back such a lovely song and making this more countrified version work.