For the first tine since we installed new windows in our century old farmhouse I didn't curse the supposedly "guaranteed" snug fitting, energy saving windows. If they'd really lived up to their advertised "promise", I would have missed out on the gentle, almost soothing winter whistling of the wind and the ideal ambience setting for Astrid Williamson's Day of the Lone Wolf
: forlorn, yearning, sorrowful. That was my first initiation to Williamson. The second complete listen-to was even more therapeutic considering what it was competing with: the hectic-- bordering on criminal-- exchange between parents and Spawns of Satan on Nanny 911 (mercifully muted). It was flickering in the background while I listened to (make that soaked up) Williamson on a pair of headphones. You want to witness a really interesting lesson in human (and in the case of this parenting show, that term's used loosely) behavior? Subliminally piped into such a chaotic family's home, Williamson's comforting vocals and decompressing orchestration could subtly reduce adult and offspring yapping and harping down to socially acceptable levels. Which is not to say that Williamson style is bland or boring or medicinal-grade sterile. Au contraire, mes amis.
The second track, "Superman 2" (his predecessor's cape stuck at the drycleaners and couldn't make the gig in time?), catapulted me from the dark yet soothing Wuthering Heights setting to a mountain top, as in the '70's " I want to give the world
" TV ad for Coke. Picture bell bottoms, daisy hairdos and organic love beads---THAT's the mental/emotional backdrop for "Superman 2". This one's serene yet more upbeat than "Siamese", a lot like the more successful musical bits featured on the old Sonny and Cher Show, only this one's sung by an honest-to-goodness singer rather than by a coat hanger for Bob Mackie's designs.
"Reach" offers another a peek inside Williamson's mind and soul. This one's so intensely personal, a first-time listener should expect to blushnot the shade associated with discovering literary naughtiness, as in: "Oops! I just happen to drop your diary but I only read the page it fell open to
and maybe the next and the next." No, this type of embarrassment is the kind generated by getting caught stealing a too-long look at a squeaky-clean showeree whose towel accidentally drops while you both cross paths in the hallway. THAT kind of up-close and personal.
The vocals and solo piano in this and at least two other cuts intertwine in such a way as to heighten that musical voyeurism.
The balance of the CD (especially "True Romance") contains echoes of Sarah McLachlan, minus the range but with all (more?) of her sincerity and soul. If by choice or circumstance you've been inundated of late by rude, raucous or repetitively inane words and melodies, you'll be especially grateful for Astrid Williamson. Not the jump-out-of-your-own-skin, let's get pie-eyed-and-forget-all-our-debts, dead-end-relationships-and-jobs, kind of grateful. But the kind of quiet gratitude you get from discovering the cashier will look the other way while you squeeze in your contraband 11th item in her 10-items or less check out line. When you've had a long hard day, even the slightest expression of human-to-human kindness is appreciated. And so it is with this entire album. Williamson may well be a lone wolf, but in terms of so many other would-be stars, she's far, far ahead of the pack.