Like the Southern folk artists she so admires, Williams is enchanted by the everyday miracles to be found in life and nature. She is among the least jaded contemporary songwriters, a chronicler of the incidental moments that transform the prosaic into the transcendent.
Williams' latest album (due in stores Tuesday) finds the Louisiana native turned Joshua Tree resident homed in on the same subject matter, but she's using a broader palette this time. To her usual understated ruminations she has added a handful of standards such as "Until the Real Thing Comes Along" and "Young at Heart," which feature Van Dyke Parks' wide-screen string arrangements. The title song is a frisky bossa nova co-written by Antonio Carlos Jobim.
Hearing Williams sing material usually reserved for more full-bodied voices is a revelation--she brings a child's sense of wonder to sentiments we've heard thousands of times before. Such original compositions as "Grandma's Hat Pin," "Gladys and Lucy" and "Junk" roam amiably, like kites buoyed by a summer breeze, their protagonists finding spiritual renewal in the rediscovery of things taken for granted.
Also Out Next Week
* Graham Coxon, "The Golden D," Transcopic. The second solo album from Blur's guitarist pays homage to the U.S. indie sound of Sonic Youth, Pavement, et al.
* Ramblin' Jack Elliott, "The Ballad of Ramblin' Jack" soundtrack, Vanguard. Bob Dylan, Woody Guthrie, Johnny Cash and others join the folk icon on this decades-spanning document.
* OPM, "Menace to Sobriety," Atlantic. The Orange County band's song "Heaven Is a Halfpipe" is shaping up as the new skate anthem.
* Matthew Ryan, "East Autumn Grin," A&M. The blue-collar rocker's 1997 debut, "May Day," earned lavish critical praise.
* Sunna, "One Minute Science," Melankolic/Astralwerks. Kevin Bacon sings along with the English band's "Power Struggle" in "Hollow Man."
* Unified Theory, "Unified Theory," 3:33 Music Group/Universal. Two alumni of the late Blind Melon and Pearl Jam's original drummer Dave Krusen join singer-guitarist Chris Shinn.