Many great things come out of Austin Texas. SXSW, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Lyndon B. Johnson and Sandra Bullock to name but a few. Add to the list Jess Williamson. Her voice alone make her a credible addition. Marry that to her song writing ability, delivery and performance and you've got a very appealing artist. 'Heart Song', Jess's latest album, is her second and follows her 2014 debut 'Native State'.
The opening track, 'Say It', ushers in the bluesy influenced folk with sombre beats, reflective musings and sultry cinematic soundscapes, in part echoing a certain Angelo Badalamenti/David Lynch seductively sinister characteristic. "My mixed up mind has a list of victims. Do you know when I need to be cuddled like a child and when I need to be ignored? We could do better than this cheap motel, but somehow here I feel most like myself" Jess sings as she emotively imparts her troubles and frustrations. "My fingertips are strangers on your face. You ask what is the matter, I can't say." And there, essentially, you have the allure of the album, Jess's vocal; full of emotion, depth and character. In part slightly tortured, damaged and scarred but with the ability to impart such great drama and convey such feeling. This paired with some devastatingly good lyrical moments, and a carefully arranged musical backdrop is where the seven tracks of 'Heart Song' give up their quality to the listener.
The title track is similarly woven as the song's story unfolds through impassioned vocals, brutally honest and inciteful lyrics and a thunderously percussive soundtrack. This is a kind of stark reality full of tumbleweed and twisters, arid deserts and a longing despair. "You've got the phases of the moon to blame, but I am a slave to a part of my heart. Nameless and untamed, my heart." Elsewhere on the album, 'See You In A Dream', (and to a lesser degree 'Last Word') are sprinkled with more of a hazy Country vibe, with a twang of guitars and C&W lilt audible in Williamson's voice.
The two briefest songs on the album are less dramatic in their delivery but no less powerful. 'White Bed', a tender lamentation is beautifully sung but tragically tainted, blending a minimalist score to Jess's soft vocal. 'Snake Song' takes a similar route, Jess giving a captivating and alluring performance, evoking thoughts of artists such as Sarabeth Tucek or even Laura Marling. The close out track, 'Devil's Girl', also bears certain similarities to the English enchantress. The casual, restrained, sometimes sultry delivery of such expressive literary lyrics produces an intoxicating blend that's difficult to resist.
'Heart Song' is a strong, emotionally charged album of engaging and enchanting songs full of passion and great lyricism. Jess Williamson has a voice that deserves to be heard and appreciated, it's full of a bluesy soulfulness that's capable of moving effortlessly between tender embrace and tortured soul. Definitely a 'one to watch'.
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