Victoria Williams – Swing the Statue!

What I Think of When I Think of This Artist

I assume like more than one other person, I became familiar with Victoria Williams through the Sweet Relief tribute album, on which Lou Reed, Pearl Jam, Michael Penn, Soul Asylum, Buffalo Tom, Matthew Sweet, Evan Dando, Giant Sand, and others covered her songs in order to raise money for her health care after an MS diagnosis. As it turns out, Williams has a very cool, “old woman living in the woods” voice and a warm approach to her material. Not necessarily my cup of tea, but a nice change of pace every now and then.

What I Think of This Album

A rural humidity suffuses these spare songs, and it’s difficult to not ascribe a quirkiness to them as a result of Williams’s distinctive, quavery voice, but most critical is the detail and richness that she adds to her songs (just like the line drawings she contributed to the booklet). The stories and characters are what make this album special.

The imagery and teenage decadence in “Summer of Drugs” butts up against the wonder and innocence of spry “Why Look At the Moon.” Meanwhile, the unusual relationship and domestic activities of “Tarbelly and Featherfoot” (whose genders appear to be unfixed) is fascinating, as is the unpredictable life story told in “Boogieman” (the marimba and cowbell are amazing). “Can’t Cry Hard Enough” is legitimately heartbreaking, and the transcendental “Holy Spirit” is a reminder that grace can be found on a NYC subway line just as easily as on the bayou. The hippie sentiment of “On Time” is augmented by a groovy organ, and rustic “Vieux Amis” is sung in Cajun (I guess). Williams’s spouse for a period was Mark Olson of the Jayhawks.

The Best Thing About This Album

“Why Look At The Moon” is magical.

Release Date

1990

The Cover Art

I like that she’s wearing a winter hat over a summer hat. Otherwise, this is fairly boring.

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