Jess Williamson – Sorceress
For her fourth album Jess Williamson seems to have really found her voice. Following on from 2018’s Cosmic Wink, full of the uncertainty and wonder of finding yourself in a new place (Williamson had moved from Texas to California), Sorceress emits self-assurance and power as alluded to by its title.
This is Williamson taking control, both metaphorically and literally. She had a hand in producing every song on the album, which helped her to deliver on her vision for the final product. The songs are incredibly expansive, producing a sound suggestive of the open deserts of Texas, where the final tracks were laid down. The sweeping strings oppose the intimacy of Jess’s vocals. It’s a contrast that mostly works well, although there are a couple of moments when it is overpowering.
Williamson’s voice has its own quiet power. It exudes the confidence and strength of a female artist who seems to have found her niche. Her vocal style is folk in the ilk of Joan Baez combined with the modern production style of artists like Maggie Rogers. Lyrically her songs are incredibly personal, exploring her own experience of subjects like spirituality, ageing and social media. Standout tracks include As the Birds Are, Sorceress and Gulf of Mexico. Thoughtful and evocative, her words express the challenging dualities of modern living, echoed in the contrasting production. Sweeping soundscapes give way to the everyday sound of cicadas and desert life.
She wrote much of Sorceress on the piano, an instrument she was just learning, and on the now largely defunct Omnichord, rather than the guitar, the novelty of these instruments allowing her songwriting to open up. The album is undoubtedly her most confident and exploratory, but it doesn’t push the envelope too far. There is no exceptional track, and you would be forgiven for calling the album a little samey at times.
There is a danger that this release will go unnoticed, as Williamson’s brand of psychedelic folk has fallen out of favour recently in exchange for artists with more bite. However the album’s contemplative escapism makes it ideal for these confused and hazy days. As we spend our time thinking rather than doing, a meandering album like Sorceress may be exactly what we need.
Photo: Kathryn Vetter Miller
Sorceress is released on 15th May 2020. For further information or to order the album visit Jess Williamson’s website here.
Watch the video for Smoke here: