A second album is generally a make-it-or-break-it moment for any musician hoping to create a career for themselves. The first album, good or bad, can often be written off as a fluke or flash in the pan, and the true proving ground is generally attributed to whatever comes from however you follow up that debut — it isn’t about how hard you can enter a room at the party, it’s about how you’re able to hold small talk treading water with whoever decides to stop by for a conversation.
For Cory Williams, his first album What’s the Going Rate? did pretty well on streaming and, for all intents and purposes, served its face-value initial goals well by being an important and fleshed-out, albeit short, piece of introductory work for the Texan rock musician. That was four years ago in 2017, however, and the public memory span may as well be starring opposite Adam Sandler in Fifty First Dates; the need for a refresher course in the modern music landscape is nothing but mandatory. Luckily, Williams’ second stab at an album with eclectically titled Bird Mouth is a phenomenal return to form, not that the form was ever lacking and was mostly just… absent.
Comprised of a mere eight tracks, Bird Mouth might seem slim to passerby until they realize that the preceding album was even shorter still. Rest assured, Williams doesn’t let the lack of length sway the meat of the project — he didn’t on the last album and certainly isn’t about to return with an album chock full of filler.
Every song present in Bird Mouth works as a deeply affectionate and well-crafted extension of Williams both as a musician and human being, featuring melodies and harmonies that feel timeless yet new and narratives that are as universal as they are deeply tied to the sole path of Williams’ own life. Specific standouts on the album, while every song is worth repeating, come in the form of the album’s opening track “Foolish Reminder,” as well as “Begin Again” and the final track “One Fell Swoop.” These three particular songs might be the album at its most condensed and straightforward, and if you’re unable to set aside a mere thirty minutes to hear all eight songs front to back, these should be your focal points.
It’s safe to say Cory Williams is not an anomaly, with Bird Mouth doubling down on his intentions to remain present and relevant in the independent music sphere. The idea that Williams has only just begun feels even more apparent in this second chapter of his career, and the hope that something new will be here before another four years passes is a hope worth clinging to. The now-proven formula of releasing something short yet deeply profound, leaving the traces of a few sharp jabs before it ends, is something few can pull off but Williams has seemingly found his wheelhouse within it. Still, whatever’s next, be it an EP or a triple-LP concept album, Cory Williams has his fingers on the pulse and will respond with his art in proper form.