Elisabeth Williamson – Deep by Janet Goodman, Music News Nashville
There's no doubt about it - Keystone, Florida Americana music artist Elisabeth Williamson is enchanting. Her vocal paintbrush has gently graced a timeless watercolor-like collection of 10 self-penned songs on the recent Gatorbone Records release, "Deep".
The album resonates vintage charm, somewhere between 1930's movie musicals and folk/bluegrass fare, where melodies are everything. And it's Williamson's exquisite voice that gives these melodies life. Warm, clear, effortless – her vocals are at once both a throwback to the standards singers like Ella Fitzgerald, and a nod to modern bluegrass divas like Alison Krauss.
Self-produced by Williamson and Lon Williamson, and featuring top notch musicians like Jason Thomas (Claire Lynch Band) on fiddle and mandolin, and Grammy Award-winning Will Barrow (Beautiful Dreamer, The Songs of Stephen Foster) on accordion, "Deep" is fresh, never overworked. Bluegrass offerings like "Bluebird" and "Fire" are lush and harmonic gems; more folk leanings shine their light on her lyric writing talents. "Wings" is dynamic, yet haunting, with a story about what comes after when a relationship ends: "Heart on a chain/That's what remains of the love we had/You've made it plain/Each link a golden memory holds/Made bittersweet by your deceit"
A brave addition to the track list is "The Bell", sung in her lower register and a tad out of her comfort zone, giving it some bite, sprinkled with appropriate coal dust in this Irish/folk-inspired song about the agonizing wait suffered by a miner's wife: "I hang by a thread/Wonderin' if you're dead/For I've heard the bell of the mine/Frozen inside a motionless tide/I watch, I wait for the sign".
"Paint the Town" has a snap-snappy Cole Porter-like lyric, while arguably much too melodically reminiscent in the verses to the classic "What'll I Do" is her sleepy, pedal steel-drenched "One". But it's Williamson's singing that won't be debated – always lovely, earthy and flawless.
Oliver di Place Music Blog by Darius Rips
This week, I am presenting an album of wonderful music that could get passed over because of the cover art. I want to do whatever I can to make sure that doesn't happen. You can see the cover of Elisabeth Williamson's album Deep above. Yes, that is a lotus blossom floating in a pond, against a backdrop of a galaxy or nebula. It's a beautiful image, but it's going to give you exactly the wrong idea of what to expect from the music. This is not a new age album of music for meditation. I might cover something like that one day, but not right now.
IInstead, call this folk music for now. A fairly large number of musicians appear on this album, and the liner notes don't say who plays on which song. Williamson plays rhythm guitar, banjo, and ukulele, and there is upright bass on every track. They may be joined by additional guitars, mandolin, fiddle, pedal steel, and/ or piano. Somewhere in the mix, there is also accordion and concert harp, but they blend in so well that I'm not sure which songs they are used on. When there are drums, they are played softly with brushes.
Elisabeth Williamson sings in a clear low soprano. Her voice is full of warmth, but she knows how to express a full range of the emotions that can accompany love. About half of the songs are jazzy numbers that sound like standards from the 1930s. Williamson sings these in a voice that has the fizz of fine champagne. The rest of the songs have more of a contemporary new grass feel to them, and she modulates her voice to sound more modern here. The result could be a musical tug of war, but that never happens. This album makes sense as a whole, because Williamson and her fine band bring out the common element that unites these two styles. That element is Williamson's romanticism.
All of these songs are about love. In Williamson's world, love is indestructible. Once given, it can not be taken back or ever truly replaced. When a lover cheats, he may be lost, but never forgotten. Even when Williamson's protagonists move on, their former lover is remembered fondly and with the best of wishes. The song Someday is all about this. In Paint the Town, a pair of lovers remember how they were together when their relationship was new, and the set out to experience those feelings again; the listener knows that they will succeed. Alone repeats the phrase "Alone with you" early on; only towards the end does the listener realize that this part of the song was a memory. And The Bell may be the most remarkable piece of writing on an album of very well written songs. Here, the protagonist has a husband or lover who works in a mine; we look in on her just as the alarm bell has gone off, indicating that there has been a serious accident in the mine. By the end of the song, neither the protagonist nor the listener know whether her lover is alive or dead. This is the most haunting song I have heard this year, and the music compliments the story beautifully.
Love is the most covered subject in the history of music, and there are abundant clichés to choose from. But Elisabeth Williamson avoids them all. She is a very visual writer, and she uses extended metaphors well too. So her tools are in place, but she never loses sight of what matters most. The emotion of these songs will stay with you for a long time. So, my advice is this. Get this album, and open it without looking at the cover. And prepare for a treat.
Elisabeth Williamson: Deep and Solo by Donna Mavity, No Depression
Haunting, uplifting, soothing, thought-provoking. These are all terms that describe "Deep," the long-awaited songwriting project from Elisabeth Williamson. Add to these descriptions "classy" and "classic" and we're getting closer to the truth.
One listener was overheard to say, "Isn't that a classic forties piece?" The title track will take you back to those times of lilting vocal harmonies and a bouncy tune that invites you to swing. But don't be mistaken, this album is no retrospective of historical musical styles. Williamson uses whatever melody breathes life into her insightful lyrics, sometimes classic, sometimes unabashedly folky, almost Appalachian, adding up to a style all her own.
We are treated to the poignancy of "Bluebird," a bitter sweet ballad that reflects on the duty of the artist to express truth in all its sorrow and joy. "Paint the Town" will bring you to your feet to dance with your favorite guy or gal. "The Bell" reaches deep inside as it tells the story of a woman, wondering the fate of her husband on news of tragedy in the mines.
We've covered classic, now what's classy about Elisabeth Williamson? She sings of tragic love, unrequited, and even cheating love—but these are no crying in your beer tunes. Even the saddest of lyrics from "One", "one tear falls for you tonight" invites a sweet, sad waltz. "Someday" is an up-tempo putting down of a lover who's left a love that he'll someday miss.
Playing on the record also as session musicians are members of the Gatorbone Band, expert flat picker Gabe Valla, and Jason Thomas, also fiddler extraordinaire for the Claire Lynch Band, and husband Lon Williamson on upright bass and vocals. Adding their expertise to the mix are well-known Nashville musicians Robert Bowlin and Will Barrow, and mandolin virtuoso Josh Pinkham.
Recently, The Williamsons have added recording and producing to their musical endeavors, establishing Gatorbone Records and completing projects for Grant Peeples, (It's Later Than You Think and PawnShop), Sharon & Dan Pillen (Like an Oak Tree), and Frank Lindamood (Hewed from the Rock).
"Songs from the deepest springs of the human heart. Beautifully sung, beautifully recorded and produced."
~ Bob Patterson, Artistic Director, Gamble Rogers Folk Festival
"Deep" is a lovely album of hand made music that comes from the heart. I can listen to these songs over and over again and still find them refreshing and charming.
"This recording in my book has all the marks of a truly classic CD. Superb writing, fantastic musicianship and put together with outstanding engineering. Captured on these tracks is some of the best Western Swing, Old Time, Folk and Country that I have heard in years. If you put this CD in your player you might never take it out! "
~ James Hawkins, Friends of Florida Folk
"At times a deeply emotional recording filled with beauty and romance, other times light and jazzy, and always with just a hint of sadness, as delicate as a butterfly's wings, Deep is simply a wonderful musical experience...the quality of the musicianship is first rate and Elisabeth Williamson's voice is as easy to listen to as a glass of fine wine...Deep is an excellent first recording from one of Florida's premiere folk singers..."
Ron Johnson, Fla-Times Union
I think "Deep" is an absolutely stellar recording featuring soaring & soulful singing, skillful instrumentation & arranging, and finely-crafted songwriting that touches on elements of jazz, swing, folk, old time, and classic country in a unique, original, and pleasingly familiar manner. If you enjoy first-class music and musicianship then give "Deep" a listen - you'll be glad you did.
~ Randy Judy, co-producer of Suwannee Springfest and MagnoliaFest