Jess Williamson: Is She Folk Or Is She Blues and Does it Matter?

20th December 2016

Title: Heart Song 

Label: Brutal Honest

Apparently, this lady stems from Austin, Texas and natives of that fine and unique State will have to forgive me because I never realised that Texans could be this introspective. That they could bare their soul in this way.

The album is bare, stripped, even when other instruments are backing her voice. Then again, when they do, they tend to be grudging. Sometimes surly, sometimes bored. Williamson talks about folk music but this feels more like a blues record. Gothic blues, if only in feel.


Speaking to the Nylon website, she revealed that, “I wrote this album in Austin…I wrote the songs in three separate houses—all mine at different times. I wrote them because I was compelled to do so and usually it felt like the songs were coming from somewhere else and I was just channeling. Writing can feel like an exorcism, a way to work through something that weighs on you or things you don’t understand. Writing a song can be a way to communicate a moment or a feeling in ways that just a sentence cannot, when you need that specific assemblage of words, instruments, phrasing, empty space.”


So maybe the gothic reference is not that far from the truth then. There is a real darkness here. A silence too. A silence that the instruments and the voice will not dispel. And that silence is pretty heavy. It infuses the whole album. It’s like she was infected with a touch of Blacksabbathitis. Such is the striding through mud quality of the presentation. Nick Cave would love it, for the tempo if nothing else.

I also get a feeling of Portishead from this LP. If lead singer of that particular outfit, Beth Gibbons, ever sang blues-infused revelations while holidaying over in Texas, then this might just be a prelude to that fictional album.

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