There's something truly enigmatic about Victoria Williams's voice, which makes it nearly impossible to categorize her unique musical muse. One moment this warbling, yet sincere, vocal instrument may have a giddy childlike quality, then the next minute it cuts through with the sage-like wisdom of a sharp old woman. It's as if she's experiencing the magical joys of living almost at the exact same time she's exposing the very real dangers of unpredictable life, and accomplishing this seemingly complicated philosophical task without ever sounding contradictory, or slowing down the easygoing ebb and flow of the songs.
But isn't this always the way any nature-loving individual looks at life? Staring wide-eyed at creation, yet ever keeping a wary eye out for anything that might upset its delicate balance? Musings of A Creek Dipper is an album filled with ideas inspired by Williams' quiet life in Joshua Tree, California. Being far away from the big city has given her an observably eco-centric perspective on the world. Whether she is singing about the "Periwinkle Sky," or meditating upon the qualities of the eucalyptus tree (as on "Tree Song"), the Earth's natural fiction is always front and center in her lyrics.
Anything sung about here -- if not already on an endangered species list -- is either old, or endangered somehow, nonetheless. With "Train Song," Williams takes a page out of the Johnny Cash thematic book by bemoaning the approaching demise of these great old steam powered institutions. It's also the album's most upbeat track, and chugs along with a funky groove. With similar regret, in the song "Grandpa in the Cornpatch," she reflects upon the passing away of an elderly loved one.
Throughout this consistent sounding disc, Williams calls upon a diverse aggregation of musicians to accomplish her vision. These contributors range from the spot on drumming of jazzman Brian Blade, to the artists-formerly-known-as-Prince's-sidekicks, Wendy Melvoin and Lisa Coleman. It's homespun instrumentation-which includes a Wurlitzer, banjos, harmonicas and dulcimers on these mostly acoustic folk and country songs-give this recording an appropriately organic feel.
Williams may sound like a quirky voice crying in the wilderness, but hers is also a viewpoint which calls us back to places and values that we oftentimes let slip our minds in the midst of busy day-to-day pursuits. So take a break from your concrete jungle travels, and dip your toes into the cool refreshing river of Victoria Williams' special soothing waters.
-- Dan Macintosh