Award-winning guitarist and vocalist Josh Williams is also a virtuoso on the banjo, as well as a master mandolin and fiddle player. He has been playing music professionally since he was ten years old. Born in western Kentucky in 1980 and raised near Paducah, Williams quickly mastered his first instrument, a toy keyboard he was given for Christmas at the age of seven. His father showed him a few chords on a guitar and he developed an interest in banjo and mandolin as well. He began playing banjo seriously when he was nine, all the while continuing his studies on guitar and mandolin.
His first album, focusing on the banjo-playing part of his persona, was recorded locally. Entitled Tall Pickin', it was released independently when he was ten. Though not widely reviewed or easily available, two cuts from the set, "Over the Rainbow" and "Nashville Blues," were issued on Prime Cuts of Bluegrass compilations. These two tracks garnered national attention and the children's Nickelodeon network featured Williams in a segment on their Nick News program when he was 12. He continued his study of the banjo in earnest, first with Scottie Henson and later with Alison Brown. Williams started his first band when he was 12 under the name Josh Williams & High Gear. After numerous shows -- including an opening slot for Ralph Stanley -- Williams joined the International Bluegrass Music Association's Bluegrass Youth All-Stars, who also included mandolinist Chris Thile. This group morphed into the Young Acoustic All-Stars, who recorded the album Somewhere Down the Road for New Haven Records in 1993. In 1994 Josh Williams & High Gear recorded The Old Town of Home and in 2007 the all-gospel Come to That River, both for Copper Creek Records.
After graduating high school, Williams accepted an invitation to be the mandolin and fiddle player in Chicago's Special Consensus, a role he filled until 2003, when he left to join the hard-touring act the Rage as its guitarist. During this period he recorded his first solo project, the Pinecastle Records release Now That You’re Gone, which was issued in 2000. He followed it with 2005's Lonesome Highway. That same year, as part of Rhonda Vincent & the Rage, he appeared on the band's Ragin’ Live but was eventually fired for drug and alcohol problems. In 2008, Tony Rice invited him to play mandolin in his band and Williams won the first of three consecutive International Bluegrass Music Association Guitarist of the Year awards.
Even though his substance abuse problems were mounting, his music remained of consistently hig quality. He recorded Down Home for release by Pinecastle in 2009, but it was shelved due to the failing health of its founder, Colonel Tom Riggs, The label eventually folded. Though he hadn't issued a recording in five years, Williams was voted Emerging Artist of the Year at the 21st IBMA awards, and Down Home was picked up by Rounder and released in 2010.
In 2011, Williams entered a rehabilitation facility and began rebuilding his life--he became a father that year. At the end of 2012, he was re-hired by Vincent.
He began recording again in 2015. Working with producer J.D. Crowe and engineer Steve Chandler at Hilltop Studios, he enlisted a top flight cast that included Sam Bush, Sierra Hull, Rob Ickes, and Doug Jernigan. The finished album, entitled Modern Day Man was released in March of 2016. ~ Thom Jurek