LA singer Jess Williamson takes stock in a new life of love and hope on Cosmic Wink | Concert Preview | Chicago Reader

LA singer Jess Williamson takes stock in a new life of love and hope on Cosmic Wink 

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click to enlarge Jess Williamson

Jess Williamson

Chantal Anderson

I haven’t heard the first two albums by Jess Williamson, but she cut her third effort, Cosmic Wink (Mexican Summer), after moving from her native Austin, Texas, to Los Angeles in 2016, and the first half of the album title is an apt descriptor for what’s inside. Her moody love songs stretch simple guitar parts toward the horizon, while her rudimentary, fragile vocals channel some unseen energy; she chants her lyrics with an mystical expansiveness. There’s more than a whiff of nonsomnambulant Mazzy Star in the music’s trance-inducing guitar strumming and milky atmosphere, as well as some early Grace Slick-era Jefferson Airplane in its psychedelic spell casting, but beneath the carefully forged haze Williamson’s songs operate with disarming directness. Opener “I See the White” is an ethereal plea for openness in the face of uncertainty as a romantic connection seems in danger of dissipating; she references her aging dog Frankie, providing a reminder of impermanence that prods her to sing, “Tell me everything you know about consciousness / We don’t make time / We take time.” In “Awakening Baby” a love that seems preternatural finally manifests itself, while “Wild Rain” suggests that among the bruising effects of El Niño is a forging a surprising connection with a man to whom she says “From you I finally learned what it means to make a family.” The tone of the music is unexpectedly spooky for songs that primarily celebrate love taking root, suggesting that something bittersweet lurks out of sight.   v

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