A A respectful silence falls over a packed Lexington as Jess Williamson takes the stage. She’s dressed like a hipster who stumbled upon Little House on the Prairie and is performing alone tonight, just a woman with her guitar — and, at times, an iPhone playing the little beats she used as demo drum lines that became an integral part of his latest album.
This album is Time Ain’t Accidental, his fifth solo album and the first to take a more optimistic worldview, as opposed to earlier work that was perpetually on the verge of tears. She spent years playing country-folk music and was on the verge of a big break when the pandemic cut everything in half. Tonight, she’s as optimistic as her 2023 record, happily inviting the “little people” stuck in the back behind a sea of vertically gifted people to sit on the stage where there’s plenty of room. “I think it would be really nice,” she told us. “We feel alone here.” No one accepts his offer.
Call it a British reserve if you like, but why would anyone want to sit behind the speakers and be deprived of the full effect of Williamson’s rich, silky voice? After each line, she steps back from the mic as if hesitant to let any more come out, and the most captivating moment of each song is sung out of the corner of her mouth in something resembling a country sneer. On Ponies in Town, she sings about the comfort of being able to afford luxury eggs as her voice ranges from guttural intimacy to horizon-chasing flute beats. When she pulls back to play her guitar solos, she moves and wiggles as if she’s dancing in a ballroom.
It’s not until the second act that she takes out the iPhone battery, although she moves as if missing them. On God in Everything it has the jarring effect of a combo of cool Christian beats doing a school assembly, but on Time Ain’t Accidental they’re almost essential – her best and most beloved song, it fizzes in the piece like a kick-around fireworks display before quietly retreating to finish the set. She opened it with the song Sorceress where she assured us that she wasn’t one, but the next hour proved her previous sentence: there’s a little magic in her hat, and she told us launched this evening.