Austin native, Jess Williamson is a folk-rock singer/songwriter that is more folk than rock, not usually following the standard “verse-chorus-verse” structure. Upon hearing the first words from the lead track and opening single “Blood Song” from her newly released debut full-length Native State, I immediately thought of Los Angeles-based singer/songwriter Meiko in terms of Williamson’s vocals. Williams perhaps has a bit more range than her L.A. counterpart. The separation between the two talented musicians begins with the lyrics and continues with the strummy guitar you’ve come to hear from acts like Mumford & Sons. Like Mumford and similar artists, you’ll hear your share of banjo and slide guitar, but Williamson somehow still manages to stand out from that genre.
WHY WE DIG HER:
Her songs are pretty easy to identify with if you’re still struggling to find your place in the world, or struggling to get over a difficult relationship. “Here I am at 25 and I can’t sign a lease,” she sings in “Seventh Song”, the final track on the album. Her music could score any scene in a film in which a group of friends is taking a long journey of self-discovery, you can see the scene in your head as the lively banjo strums behind her emotionally charged vocals. The seven-song album plays almost like a story in itself, one that you want to relive over and over.
“Blood Song” – There’s a reason this song was chosen as the lead single off the record. If you’ve never heard Jess Williamson play before, it is a nice introduction as it doesn’t send you right into the fast-paced banjo that encompasses most of the album. It begins with a simple guitar arrangement that allows you to get the full breadth of Williamson’s haunting vocals. Then the slide guitar kicks in, providing a nice counter to Williamson’s voice, and later, backing vocals.
“Seventh Song” – “We’re all waiting for life to begin, but ain’t we always more or less heading West?” sings Williamson in a track that features a lot of wordplay on being in that stage in life where you’re just getting by and going from place to place. The last track of the album, the song ends poetically “But do you know how holy it is, just to quietly sit with someone?”
THREE WORDS TO DESCRIBE JESS WILLIAMSON: Stirring — Banjo — Angsty
INTERESTING TIDBIT: Williamson’s album was backed on Kickstarter, culminating in $3,931 raised on Oct. 15, 2012. One that backed the album at a $750 pledge got Williamson to play a show for them where they were able to sit on the stage the entire time and design the setlist according to the campaign site. It also included her covering any song you choose, an original song written about the topic of your choosing, an original photo print, a CD of embarrassing (in her words) early songs of hers, a vinyl copy of the album, and a musical thank you recorded on your voicemail. This package would likely be more expensive the next time around.
Stream Jess Williamson’s debut album, Native State below. You can purchase it here.
Words: Mark E. Ortega