Even a willing listener has to get through two small matters before appreciating Victoria Williams. One is the singer-songwriter’s voice: an expressive but slightly cartoony instrument that most will find an acquired taste. Second is to understand that much of her acclaim–great reviews and a host of big-deal famous-artist friends–is based specifically on her talents as a songwriter as opposed to a performing or album artist. Her newest record–and first since a bout with multiple sclerosis and a high-profile tribute album, Sweet Relief, drew national attention to her talents–is dramatic evidence of this. A few songs are simply gorgeous: “Century Plant,” “You R Loved,” “Crazy Mary,” all of them clustered nicely at the album’s start. Yet too much of the rest is misconceived. This 16-track affair is too long by almost half, even the pretty songs are overburdened productionwise (like the silly horn track on “You R Loved”), and I just don’t understand odd covers like Spirit’s “Nature’s Way” or the experimentalism that produced weird things like “Happy to Have Known Pappy.” Still, Williams is enormously likable and inviting onstage, and this is her first visit to Chicago with a full band. Vic Chesnutt opens. Thursday, March 30, 7:30 PM, Park West, 322 W. Armitage; 929-5959 or 559-1212.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): Photo/Frank Ockenfels 3.