Tales Of Wonderment

In the world of hard electronic noises and gruff guitars,

Victoria Williams' music is something of an anomaly. Her down-

home folk

songs have earned her the reputation of a musician's musician

(her fans

include R.E.M. and

Soul Asylum). When Williams was diagnosed with multiple

sclerosis in 1992,

her famous followers got together to record Sweet Relief (a

collection of

Williams' songs performed by artists such as Pearl Jam, Lou Reed

and Michelle

Shocked), to raise money for her medical treatment and the

treatment of other

musicians struggling with medical hardship. With this album,

people began to

take notice of Williams.

What followed was 1994's Loose, a critically lauded

collection of trademark Williams material, with songs that allude to

everything from century plants (which take at least 15 years to

bloom and die

shortly thereafter) to the Rainbow Gathering, a peace meeting

that occurs every year at a secret location. Since that release,

Williams has been relatively quiet (releasing a live album that got

little attention), but this month she's back with another gem of a

studio album,

Musings of a Creekdipper.

It's difficult to be in a bad mood when you're listening to a Victoria

Williams record, and Creekdipper is no exception.

"Periwinkle Sky"

starts off the album with sweeps of rolling drums, tinkling piano

and meandering

trumpet. Williams' quaint, relatively untrained voice eases into the

lyrics "The

clouds

pile up high in the periwinkle sky/ The water's soft and brown/ It

looks like

you could walk on it." In "Rainmaker," she sings "It's hard to be a

rainmaker/ Always movin' on so the town don't drown." In

"Nature's Boy" and

"Allergic Boy," she introduces us to a couple of unusual children.

The first is a

sleepy, jazz-flecked

song about a shy, wise child who makes his home on the land.

The second is

more

whimsical though no less compassionate: "It was just a birthday

party but he

come home nearly half-dead ... poor little boy, allergic to his toys."

Other songs suggest a fantastic side to Williams' imagination.

The banjo-laced "Kashmir's Corn" opens with a scene in which a

horse is

preaching its message to 15 rabbits. She delivers the tale as

though addressing

a group (both human and animal) gathered 'round a fire on a

country evening,

sipping moonshine from mason jars.

In "Grandpa in the Cornpatch," Williams tells the story of

an old man who just wants to relax and enjoy his last years

despite all the

work he has to do. "I wish I could fly and see everyone I love in the

blink of an eye," he thinks. His reverie is interrupted by

Williams' weary chant, "chores, chores, chores!"

Providing the soundscape for these stories, Williams has

assembled a cast of

wonderful musicians, including husband and guitarist Mark Olson

(who recently left his band, The Jayhawks) and renowned jazz

drummer Brian Blade. Williams also enlisted the help of Wendy

Melvoin and

Lisa Coleman (Wendy and Lisa, formerly of Prince and the

Revolution) to

formulate the

jug-band rhythm loops that support "Train Song (Demise of the

Caboose)."

Their backing is funky enough to inspire some serious hip-

shaking, yet the song

retains a shuffling underbeat that mimics the passing of a train. In

the song,

Williams mourns the end of the train industry, the death of which is

emblematic

of those parts of American culture rendered obsolete by modern

technology and

big corporations.

Williams is most arresting when she infuses songs with a childlike

perspective

-- childlike in the sense that she marvels at the wonders of the

world. In "Let

it Be So," she sings about marriage and perfect love with so much

conviction that

it's easy to forget that there are such things as broken homes:

"Rejoice in this

moment/ And many hereafter/ Sweet and holy because of the

sound of your

laughter/ Oh let it be so."

Williams' music might not be for everyone, but her love for the

world is infectious and energizing.