Astrid Williamson | Day of the Lone Wolf (One Little Indian)

cd_astriedWilliamson has a poignant, delicate approach to playing piano that often provides more of the emotional pull than her vocals do.

 

 

 

 

 

\Singer-songwriters aren't subdivided into styles or aesthetic approaches in the record stores, but if they were, Scotland's Astrid Williamson would be filed in the "confessional" category. This is not to slight the talented Ms. Williamson at all; she's a very appealing, often captivating musician, as evidenced by her U.S. debut Day of the Lone Wolf (she has two prior solo releases in Europe). It's merely to point out that she apparently has a desire to tell all on this record and that means, primarily, frustration with all that love stuff.

"When my heart's in my mouth/ It's no wonder that these words cannot come out/ And when my head's in a spin/ I no longer know where I end and you begin," sings Williamson on "True Romance," something she is clearly seeking throughout these 12 compositions. That particular song is a hauntingly sad ballad that should tug the heartstrings of anyone ruminating on their status in an uncertain relationship. Williamson has a poignant, delicate approach to playing piano that often provides more of the emotional pull than her vocals do (she's a good, but not very distinctive singer).

Shades of other confessional songbirds such as Tori Amos, Cat Power, and particularly stepsisters Kristin Hersh and Tanya Donnelly can be heard on the disc; Williamson, in fact, could be the later-blooming third sister in that talented family. "Only Heaven Knows" is another ballad, somber to the point of exhaustion, and yet emotionally authentic as it explores the helpless feeling of not knowing what lies ahead in matters of great importance. Williamson is more likely to build her following with the up-tempo numbers here. "Superman 2" is a well-crafted pop song that suggests love is the ultimate rescuer. "I want you to be my Superman," sings Williamson, but the real hook comes in a pleasing chorus that sounds like it belongs in a movie: "Ordinary people/ Extraordinary life/ Put-together people/ Just holding onto life," Williamson sings in a, well, ordinary tone that nonetheless sticks in your ear.

An even better tune is "Shhh…," which is a big, rousing rocker that deserves airplay. The beautifully rendered balance between Williamson's piano, some fresh-sounding acoustic guitar, an elemental electric guitar part repeated just enough and the simple drumbeat provides one of the album's strongest moments. Another is the late-night-vibey tune "Amarylis," which Williamson sings in a sensual, compelling whisper. "I dance to you/ I like the way you look at me/ I move for you," she sings, and the effect is erotic and melancholy simultaneously, especially with the sparse arrangement.

Day of the Lone Wolf is somewhat spotty-not every song is a gem, and the few brief instrumentals actually offer some welcome variety. But you could call this one a grower, as it gains through familiarity, and Williamson strikes universal chords in both her lyrics and the economical arrangements. Fans of big-hearted female singers will likely find plenty to enjoy here, and the good songs are memorable enough to anticipate something even more compelling from Williamson down the road. B | Kevin Renick

RIYL: Tori Amos, Joni Mitchell, Tanya Donnelly

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