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SAVVY HICKSTER : Singer Victoria Williams May Be Rusticated, but She Isn't Naive

August 23, 1990|MIKE BOEHM | TIMES ORANGE COUNTY POP MUSIC CRITIC

A lot of people go into pop music so they can be hipsters. But Victoria Williams is unusual. You might call the Los Angeles-based singer a hickster.

Williams, who hails from Forbing, La., has released two albums marked by a sense of old-time, rural innocence. On her 1987 debut album "Happy Come Home" and the new "Swing the Statue," she unaffectedly weaves yarns that could be her own take on the Southern tradition of fable-spinning embodied in the Uncle Remus tales. Vocally, she can sound like a rusticated, more ethereal Rickie Lee Jones, keeping the improvisational, storytelling aspects of Jones' approach but jettisoning the hipper, urban jazz instincts. Williams' sense of roots comes out in fine, authentic-sounding readings of gospel and Cajun songs.

Like traditional fables, Williams' songs tend to have morals to them. She celebrates simple verities, like the lovely constancy of the moon, or the humility and goodness of the rural characters she portrays in songs like "T.C." and "Statue of a Bum." But Williams is not naive. As sweet and whimsical as her songs can be, they are full of emotional complexities and the recognition that life is full of existential aches and contradictions.

Williams' career path led her from Louisiana to Colorado to Los Angeles to New York (a stay commemorated in some song-verses about singing happily on a subway), then back to Los Angeles. She married singer-songwriter Peter Case, making them the George Jones and Tammy Wynette of the L.A. folkie scene for a time until they divorced last year.

While she debuted on a major label, Geffen, Williams' follow-up is on a smaller independent, Rough Trade. That may be the commercial price to be paid for a performer whose distinctive sound and sensibility branch off like an enchanting woodland creek, running far from the mainstream.

Who: Victoria Williams, Milo Binder and April Danielle.

When: Thursday, Aug. 23, at 9 p.m.

Where: Bogart's, 6288 E. Pacific Coast Highway, Long Beach.

Whereabouts: At the north end of the Marina Pacifica Mall on Pacific Coast Highway, near the Orange County line.

Wherewithal: $8.50.

Where to call: (213) 594-8975.

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