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Amanda Jo Williams’s “You’re The Father Of My Songs”: Trying to Define the Undefineable

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Experiencing Amanda Jo Williams in ones ears at first listen might draw comparisons to Talking Heads filtered through couch weed, mixed down with a sweet micro bourbon; it is an acquired yet refined taste.  She comes at you from left field with a bit of a strange look and an uppercut of a musical hook behind those grooves of hers.  How do you put a neat tidy bow on someone who defies categorization? You don’t.

AMJ is in a class all of her own honed by years of hitting the L.A. circuit and developing her craft.  It’s not really country in the Cash sense or the Shania Twain vein.  It feels more  like she channels those old time westerns, but her voice throws you into another dimension of late night television from the seventies circa Night Gallery and The Twilight Zone.  That child like ‘Shirley Temple’ timbre that is juxtaposed against  jagged tones is just so unexpected and yet welcomed it completes the surreal experience that is Williams.

Take a listen…

Even when she’s on East Coast domestic duty raising three kids, Amanda Jo Williams remains an enigmatic L.A. musical mainstay. Over a decade into her wild tenure, most are at a loss of where to put her, how to describe her, and how to process such lines as “I need a fire in my chest and blood in my pee to urinate.” Known to scoff at tags like “freak-folk” and “alt-country” by merely staring at you in scolding confusion with the same steely eyes that were once captured by flashbulbs in the NYC modeling world, she proves over again that she’s far too feral for the easily digestible grooming of genre shackles. But one eyeball/ear full of the dust her and her gang kicks up at such off the beaten left-hand path venues like The Echo Country Outpost (where she has taken the role of undisputed mascot and spiritual leader) is all one needs to connect the quivering dots.

On her fourth LP, You’re The Father Of My Songs, Williams returns armed with her trusty Olvera Street-kiddy guitar, her loyally kinetic jumping bean back up band, and this time, some cream of the crop L.A. stalwarts – John Frusciante, Fool’s Gold multi-instrumentalist Brad Caulkins, and Laena Geronimo of Raw Geronimo and Dante Vs. Zombies. And to help flesh out the most refined exhibition of her unmistakable sound to date, it’s all driven home by the production of Swahili Blonde mastermind/Neurotic Yell CEONicole Turley.

Williams maintains her classic vocal chirp of a little Southern girl with a flashlight under the blanket telling ghost stories, but on You’re The Father of My Songs we see the stories turn considerably antagonistic. There’s the Dada-dance warning of impending brimstone on the album’s opener “2000Hell” that segues into the Roky Erikson-esque scorn/minimalist Bad Seeds dirge of “Animal Dog” getting your feet wet in murkier waters before the reggae infused hoedown of “Holster, The Gun It Hangs In There” and psychedelic seasick shanty “Suppose I Did Mean Love.” Ladled with generous helpings of country/gospel back up vocals, wind-thrown seasoning’s of onomonopias, and sidewinding Beefheartening rhythmic risks, perhaps the gutsiest moment is her delving into the straight pop territory of “Goddamn Muse” which could very well be Williams and crew’s triumphant steeling back of the dreaded omnipresent (but never failing radio hit formula) Am/F/C/G progression, back to the punk roots from which it was spawned? In a perfect world this would be bullet status on Billboard, and it may be good news for all of us that despite all her occasional communing with darker hues, Williams is an unabashed utopian at heart.

When asked about her idea of a perfect year in a recent interview, Williams replied: “…she would make millions of dollars and travel to every country. She would write a song with Prince. She would eat every oyster kind in the world. Her body would be toned and strong. Her songs would be played all over the T.V and in movie theaters. Werner Herzog would invite her to play paint ball or tennis. She would be very nice and loving and good. Amanda would think only positive thoughts and only care about things that really matter. Jesus would come down as the alien he is and blow people’s minds into no hunger or death. No fear and dreams for all. She would feel such an overwhelming love that her cells would spread apart and there would be no Amanda except in all things.. Her human at peace.”