Shawn Williams – Wallowin’ In the Night
This New Orleans-based artist peels back the skin of Americana-Roots to reveal a haunting soulful side. On her 4th outing Wallowin’ In the Night (Drops May 20–Independent). The 12 cuts go down smooth like good jazz & whiskey.
The music steps out onto the wet dark rainy pavement, follows musical shadows, strikes a match on a light pole & stands under the awning of what Shawn calls “alt-country rockabilly.” Yeah, baby.
Dark themes are the recipe of this woman’s musical oeuvre of human experience, heartbreak, hangovers, breakups & legal lubricants. She paints with a broad brush of vulnerability, bad habits of the heart & pastel-colored vices.
Written/produced by Ms. Williams (guitar/vocals) the 55:00-minute CD attracts ears like moths to a lamp on a summer porch. Is it a downer? Not necessarily. I’ll tell you why. Many people will relate to these scenarios, they’re sad, blue, they go to bed worried, wake up a quarter-past dead & songs sharing such troubles sometimes can have a sobering effect.
What was it that Tom Waits said? “I like beautiful melodies telling me terrible things.” This is the root of the tales Shawn Williams unfolds from a realistic gospel of truth. She can be self-deprecating but surprisingly in an uplifting voice. She does have the right tonality to be believable through these words. She’s from the “school” of similar disquieted tales by clever writers like the late Chuck E. Weiss & the early Rickie Lee Jones but shies away from the Beat platitudes. There are songs that buzz around that dense invitation to stay the night — not for the sex but because you don’t want to be alone.
She doesn’t have a deep gravelly Marianne Faithful voice, but Shawn still subscribes to that underbelly worldly view. That atmosphere, that universe. A Brecht-Weill intensity with country-folk shivs flailing away at the buttocks of commercialism. Grinding lead guitars & plaintive electric piano notes. Creepy but soothing. Like taking that foul-tasting cough medicine simply because it has a percentage of alcohol in it. It does have cherry flavoring right? Shawn’s songs have cherry flavoring & a kick.
At times Shawn’s bluesy tonality runs a slender finger across the Genya Ravan (Ten Wheel Drive – “Morning Much Better”) technique. Throughout each song Shawn’s sincerity is urgent. “Everything You Stood For,” is slinky & streamlined in its intricacy. Nice intonation & phrasing.
“So Tired,” sounds like a tune Billie Holiday would’ve covered. A bit of a style fortified more modernly by the late Amy Winehouse. Striding through a tight narrative with lounge-lizard power & a few choice colorful words.
Time to go & play this one again. Satisfaction guaranteed. The band includes — Doug Garrison (drums/percussion), Rene Coman (bass), Casey McAllister (all keys/ guitar on 3 cuts), John Fohl (guitar on 4 cuts), Lynn Drury (harmonies on 4 cuts), Dave Easley (pedal steel guitar), Will Darvill (fiddle) & Kelcy Mae (harmonies).
B&W image: Michael Furman. CD @ https://shawnwilliamsmusic.com/