In the world of hard electronic noises and gruff guitars,
Victoria Williams' music is something of an anomaly. Her down-
songs have earned her the reputation of a musician's musician
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
Williams' songs performed by artists such as Pearl Jam, Lou Reed
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
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.
starts off the album with sweeps of rolling drums, tinkling piano
trumpet. Williams' quaint, relatively untrained voice eases into the
pile up high in the periwinkle sky/ The water's soft and brown/ It
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
song about a shy, wise child who makes his home on the land.
The second is
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
preaching its message to 15 rabbits. She delivers the tale as
a group (both human and animal) gathered 'round a fire on a
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
Lisa Coleman (Wendy and Lisa, formerly of Prince and the
jug-band rhythm loops that support "Train Song (Demise of the
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
Williams mourns the end of the train industry, the death of which is
of those parts of American culture rendered obsolete by modern
Williams is most arresting when she infuses songs with a childlike
-- 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
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.