Victoria Williams & The Loose Band Town Hall 1995, out July 28th

by the partae

Featuring Lou Reed on ‘Sweet Jane’ 
“I love Victoria Williams.” Lou Reed

“The instrumentation is beautiful, and much more sparse than her studio albums.” No Depression

“In her leisurely way, Ms. Williams carried listeners into her own world. It’s a musical attic where she dusts off curios — standards, hymns, country songs, backwoods blues, bits of rock — and displays them or reassembles them to suit her own quirks.” New York Times

We feel protective. In the spirit of caring, we come to celebrate Victoria Williams. There are certain acts that you just have to nurture and believe in. Early in her career, Victoria Williams released two astonishing albums that no-one listened to, they sat on the shelves and a small battalion of converts attempted to persuade the masses that this work was exemplary. They traded tapes, bought spare copies, foisted them on friends. Longed to be on Victoria’s back porch.

She was quirky. She was Marmite. She sang nursery rhymes, things that sounded like hymns. She touched the inner child, possessed of a sweet innocence, a poetic simplicity that seemed all too easily to be crushed beneath the wheels of progress. She did social commentary too, like the local paper, every bit Peter Bogdanovich’s Last Picture Show brought to life. Her voice was brittle but it had range. Listening to those albums, you were on edge, willing her to get through each song.

Then in 1994 Van Dyke Parks’ arranged ‘Loose’, a beautiful accomplished new collection of songs that was an overnight success a mere seven years on. A year previous the great and the greater had assembled to interpret her music on ‘Sweet Relief’ in aid of her struggle with MS. The word was out. Pearl Jam, Evan Dando, Giant Sand, Lou Reed and The Jayhawks all put in a shift. People were enthralled by this voice from a place guarded by the mythical Tarbelly And Featherfoot.

And so, in 1995 Victoria Williams toured with the Loose band. Critics swooned and acclaimed her live shows as “beautiful” and “intimate”, set lists varied every night, special guests happened along. Finally they reached a town hall (somewhere) and this Record Store Day set was created. Seven of the 15 tracks are taken from ‘Loose’ but they are reduced Darwin-like, made even more personal. She harks back to the earlier Donnie Darko-like strangeness of ‘Crazy Mary’, sketches small town America on the ‘Summer Of Drugs’ and welcomes Lou Reed for a duet on ‘Sweet Jane’.

No Depression at the time enthused about a live show where 50 people were in touching distance of greatness. It was the perfect platform they believed, trying hard to still keep Victoria their own personal secret. This live set, with its laissez faire feel and impromptu vibe is as close as it gets to a personal performance. Van Dyke’s veneer is rubbed off and every song positively tingles right through to a gorgeous version of ‘Over The Rainbow’. It’s a fairytale to believe in.

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