Jess Williamson - Cosmic Wink

by Bill Golembeski Rating:9 Release Date:2018-05-11
Jess Williamson - Cosmic Wink
Jess Williamson - Cosmic Wink

Honest! I was just expecting some sort of banjo folk album.

But this record is a dreamlike soundscape into the psyche. Sure, there are strong elements of rock, folk, and late 60’s West Coast music, but they are all woven into an ephemeral tapestry that softly hooks together wonderful melodies that bubble from somewhere deep down and then rise to the surface of these songs.

It all starts with the words, “Tell me everything you know about consciousness.” Now, this doesn’t have the deep literary significance of, say, “Hey, hey momma said the way you move/Goin’ make you sweat, goin’ make you groove”; but it’s still pretty cool. And there’s an insistant acoustic guitar that provides the stability for a deep dive into great big questions about love, life, the concept of a circle, and the depth of the waters that surround questions about love, life, and the concept of a circle.

The first song, “I See White,” is a truth that every dog lover sees in the aging face of a beautiful and faithful best friend.

Great art touches pathos; and this song touches that pathos.

“Awakening Baby,” when allowed to peer through its dense dreamlike delivery, is a beautiful song. But it’s a beauty that needs to be felt rather than touched. The same is true for “White Bird.” Again, there is an incessant acoustic guitar that ties the tune down to reality, while the melody and lead guitar simply drift into the starry night sky.

“Wild Rain” is slow, and it’s about love. It’s a confession. And the song erupts with drama that is light years beyond the usual vibrations of a folk or rock record. The tune is stunning and soulfully raw. And I love that title.

This music requires an investment of time and emotion.

Odd: “Thunder Song” swirls with an almost swamp-voodoo vibe. John Fogerty created the same hot darkness in songs like “Born on the Bayou” and “Run Through the Jungle.” Again, there’s something oozing up from the morass. And this record, like the best of Creedence, or perhaps, Van Morrison (in a much more spiritual way), somehow manages to make the scary intangible stuff into a hummable prayer that a lot of people don’t mind reciting.

Rock records of merit do this all the time. Pink Floyd probably did that with Dark Side of the Moon. And that record, too, journeyed through the ticking clocks in our collective souls. And Peter Gabriel almost quotes Carl Jung in the opening words to “The Grand Parade of Lifeless Packaging,” as he, speaking of the exploration of consciousness, sings “It’s the last great adventure left to mankind.”

You know, that Jungian reference is a really nice opening line for a rock song, too; but it still doesn’t hold a candle to Zep’s paean to a movin’, sweatin’, and groovin’ momma.

Just another observation: while this album does possess a dreamlike aura, it never slips into the new age airy-fairy nonsense of Enya, and it certainly doesn’t try to create the mystical Celtic age-old wisdom of some hoary druid trying to explain the purpose of Stonehenge. Jess Williamson’s vocals do float with slow gymnastics, but the band tethers everything down with the tent stakes required to make this a valid rock record.

Ultimately, this album is all about love. “Mama Proud” is acoustic. Again, the vocals soar, while the steady guitar and sensitive percussion and bass ground the song into the concrete of here and now. It is about a mother’s love, but it’s also about a child’s love. It’s all a beautiful circle. “Dream State” rocks a bit more. This one is tense and does recall the urgency of Kate Bush’s vocals on her more experimental albums like The Dreaming. “Forever” haunts the vibrations of its grooves. And finally, “Love on the Piano” is an earnest plea for the enduring beauty of love that manages, somehow, to complete with all the best of movin’, sweatin’, and groovin’ rock ‘n’ roll. This is just a slow and beautiful song that begs for some sort of redemption.

I’ve come to believe that love, rock music, planting seeds in the garden, and just about everything else, may well be all about redemption.

So yeah, Tell me everything you know about consciousness. This record does that. It drills deep. It floats in the clouds of love. And it begins with aging face of a favorite canine friend. It’s about time, new love, daily stuff, psychological stuff, magic, dreams, and ultimately, the Wild Rain (which is still a great title) that sheds its benevolence, and waters all the passionate fires that create records that are spooky, inciteful, melodic, gentle, perhaps profound, and, ultimately, the sound of any human who simply wants to sing songs about the age old obsession of, as Queen so aptly sang, “This crazy little thing called love.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

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