Best R&B or Soul Singer

Donnie Williams

“You’re ruining my life!” Donnie Williams complained to a Danville cop four years ago. The then-twenty-year-old Livermore soul singer had just made it into the top eight semi-finalists on American Idol when he imbibed too much at a local celebration and was subsequently arrested for doing 100 mph and being under the influence. He was promptly booted off the show and replaced by George Huff. Williams may not grin as much as Huff did, but he can sing circles around him — in ringing, remarkably pliant high-tenor tones, often executing long sustains that he follows, without stopping to take a breath, with strings of pitch-perfect, rapid-fire melismata. And might have given season winner Fantasia a serious run for the crown had he not messed up. The Baton Rouge-bred vocalist rebounded — presumably sober — last year as the frontman of Park Place, an R&B band organized by veteran Berkeley songwriter-producer Paul Tillman Smith. The group, which has a terrific CD of Quiet Storm-friendly tunes titled Just Like Magic, also features younger sister Terrell Williams, who may well be the second best soul singer in the East Bay.

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