Jess Williamson at Lexington

Support: Protection Spells| Savage Mansion
October 3, 2018 at Lexington

There has been an extra eye of attention on Jess Williamson since the arrival of her third album Cosmic Wink,  including a fair-sized feature in one of the major music publications a couple of months ago. While she has toured Europe several times before this is her first time she has brought over a full band, which is a fitting time because Cosmic Wink is a more collaborative and fuller ensemble sound compared to her previous two albums.

Prior to Jess taking the stage, Protection Spells are the first of two support bands and prove to be the most interesting. A four-piece, with an equal balance of gender in their ranks, sees keyboards provide downbeat atmospherics, occasional soaring guitar leads, powered by strong, sharp, melancholic vocals to create a louder Indie-ish take on First Aid Kit. A band worth keeping an eye out for – promising.

Glasgow’s Savage Mansion represent the raucous, double-guitar attack and direct blast of the night. Their straight-ahead rockier approach comes across like an earlier era Teenage Fanclub. The opening couple of songs initially pull this reviewer in, but a lack of variation couldn’t quite sustain attention towards their end of their set.

“Do any of you believe in love?”, asks Jess Williamson, which gets a muted response, especially from the older representation of tonight’s crowd. But it is these early days, months, years of a most rewarding relationship which form many of the heady and gradually arresting songs of her very fine Cosmic Wink album. And it is this lovely haze which the band create to glowing effect. The gentle tempo and swoon of ‘Awakening Baby’ has a tinge of Edie Brickell and the New Bohemians about it. But before any solid similarities can be cast on Jess’ sound, the admirable variation of her songs is soon exposed, not only in her song-writing, but also in the play of her rich vision.

‘I See White’ displays an understanding of a melodic pop hook, while ‘White Bird’ captures a lean, well-crafted song. But it is her ability to take her sound beyond the traditional verse-chorus method into a cosmic country vibe, which showcases a deeper-seated scope in her musical horizon.  At its best, it bears the shared creative force of David Crosby’s classic ‘If I Could Only Remember My Name’, in the sense it orbits its own intoxicating sound cloud which, once in, is hard to escape. Hearing ‘Dream state’ extend into a one hell of a cosmic-jam collision, building to a most satisfyingly pleasing intensity, is enthralling, and sees Jess transfer from guitar to keyboards to add a different dimension to the sound inferno.

It is no surprise that the whole set, if I’m not mistaken, is culled from Cosmic Wink. So, like the album there is a consistency of mood. The set ends with Jess dispensing with the guitar and trading it for a microphone and tambourine for ‘White rain.’ And this is where her love of Cat Power positively shines through. With no encore interruptions, or fillers, just a straight 50-minutes-ish run-through, the whole performance is very well-judged.

Tonight, sees Jess Williamson prove she is an exciting musician, and demonstrates that an artist capturing a happier, contented time in her life can provide a captivating burst of creativity, as well as a rewarding listening pleasure. This band exploration and sound expansion seems to suit her extremely well.

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