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POP MUSIC | RECORD RACK

Williams Keeps to Her Eccentric Musical Path

*** 1/2 VICTORIA WILLIAMS, "Musings of a Creekdipper," Atlantic

January 11, 1998|Natalie Nichols

She's been recording for more than 10 years, but until recently Victoria Williams has probably been known more by reputation than for her eclectic work. The eccentric singer-songwriter is a musicians' cult figure of sorts, so admired by the likes of Lou Reed, Michelle Shocked and Maria McKee that they participated in 1993's "Sweet Relief," a benefit album of Williams songs that helped pay for her multiple sclerosis treatment.

Her appearances on last year's Lilith Fair tour gave her more mainstream exposure, but it's dubious that "Musings of a Creekdipper"--her follow-up to 1994's "Loose"--will cash in on that. Too bad. Though it won't set the charts on fire, this fantastic song cycle showcases Williams' talents to often breathtaking effect.

Her whispery voice colors the emotional details in epic soundscapes such as "Periwinkle Sky," whose nuanced theatricality and poignant sincerity recall Brian Wilson and Van Dyke Parks' collaborations. Simpler songs, such as the lovely wedding ballad "Let It Be So," are just as entrancing.

Still, while devotees should be charmed by such oddities as her vintage-exotica take on the Eden Ahbez curiosity "Nature Boy" and her own even freakier twist on it, "Allergic Boy," the uninitiated may be less engaged.

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