Friday, November 18, 2011

LOOSE - Victoria Williams

YEAR: 1994

LABEL: Mammoth

TRACK LISTING: Century Plant, You R Loved, Harry Went To Heaven, Crazy Mary, When We Sing Together, Polish Those Shoes, Love, What A Wonderful World, Waterfall, Nature's Way, Sunshine Country, Happy To Have Known Pappy, My Ally, Hitchhikers' Smile, Get Away, Psalms

IMPRESSIONS: This is my favourite of Vic's albums and it contains many of my favourite songs. These slices of small-town, rural life leave one immersed inside Vic's world with her incredibly descriptive songwriting through her use of everyday objects and situation to illustrate greater themes. Her voice has been described as "Minnie Mouse on helium" and may at first come across as a little coy but attentive listening will reveal there is an abundance of truth, clear-eyed observation and even some pain alongside a gracious humour and a stubborn optimism which is anything but artificial. "Polish Those Shoes" is a spectacular operetta set in a Southern country house and is an epic listen among picket fences. Vic's cover of "What A Wonderful World" is laced with bravery as it comes immediately after her diagnosis with MS; it manages to avoid the saccharine and comes almost as a sigh of relief. "Love" sounds like an old standard that's been around for decades (as indeed many of her songs do) and "Crazy Mary" has a spooky strain of reality running through it with the repeated line "what you fear the most could meet you halfway". After so many recent tribulations, it's a wonder she produced an album at all; let alone probably the best of her career. The album's review on itunes states it rather well: "Sometimes one has to wonder just where great records come from; when something comes out of the factory spotless, full of brightness, life and love, grit and suffering, all offered as a gift to the listener."

MY FAVOURITE TRACKS: Century Plant, You R Loved, Harry Went To Heaven, Crazy Mary, When We Sing Together, Polish Those Shoes, Love, What A Wonderful World, Nature's Way, Happy To Have Known Pappy, Get Away

GUEST ARTISTS: Mike Mills (background vocals), The Tower of Power Horn Section (horns on "You R Loved" and "Get Away"), Peter Buck (electric guitar on "Crazy Mary", choral sitar on "Hitchhikers Smile"), Mark Olson (acoustic guitar, vocals on "When We Sing Together"), Van Dyke Parks (accordion on "Polish Those Shoes", orchestral arrangements on "Polish Those Shoes" and "What A Wonderful World"), Dave Pirner (vocals on "Nature's Way" and "My Ally")

FACT SHEET: LOOSE is Victoria Williams' third album and something of a comeback album after her two previous albums which seemed to perplex Geffen Records. "Crazy Mary" is actually something of a cover version of herself since the song first appeared performed by Pearl Jam (with Victoria singing backup) on the SWEET RELIEF benefit cd. "Nature's Way" is a cover of a Spirit song and "What A Wonderful World" of course is a cover of a Louis Armstrong song. "Happy To Have Known Pappy" was written for Victoria's father who has recently died. The cover photo features Victoria's dog Belle who has also died the same week as her father.

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