Calendar of Events

March 2024
March 12, 2024
Jess Williamson
Show Starts:
8:00 pm
Show End:
12:00 am
Doors will open approximately 30minutes prior to show start time.
Entry Fee:
$
27
Ages
21
and up allowed
About the Show and the Artist:

Doors 7pm // Show 8pm // Ages 21+ // $27 Advance & $32 Day of Show

***This is a standing room general admissions show. There will be a limited number of chairs located in the back of the concert hall. Seating will be first come first served. The restaurant will be open for dinner starting at 4pm.

Felton Music Hall Presents:

JESS WILLIAMSON

with ERIN RAE

Endless prairies and ocean waves; long drives and highway expanse; dancing, smoke, sex, and physical desire – the core images of Jess Williamson’s new album Time Ain’t Accidental revel in the earthly and the carnal. After a protracted breakup with a romantic partner and longtime musical collaborator who left Williamson and their home in Los Angeles at the start of the pandemic, the album’s reckoning with loss, isolation, romance, and personal reclamation signals a tectonic shift for Williamson as a person and as an artist: from someone who once accommodated and made herself small to a woman emboldened by her power as an individual.

A daringly personal but inevitable evolution for the Texas-born, Los Angeles-based singer, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist, Time Ain’t Accidental is evocative of iconic Western landscapes, tear-in-beer anthems, and a wholly modern take on country music that is completely her own. Above everything, sonically and thematically, this album is about Williamson’s voice, crystalline and acrobatic in its range, standing front and center. Think Linda Rondstadt turned minimalist, The Chicks gone indie or even Emmylou Harris’ work with Daniel Lanois. Ringing boldly and unobscured, it’s the sound of a woman running into her life and art head-on, unambiguously, and on her own terms for the first time.

Last year, Williamson and Katie Crutchfield of Waxahatchee released I Walked With You A Ways under the name Plains; a critically acclaimed record filled to the whiskey-barreled brim with feminine confidence, camaraderie, and straight-up country bangers and ballads. After past records Cosmic Wink (2018) and Sorceress (2020), both released on Mexican Summer, Williamson felt primed to shift in a new direction. Revisiting what she loved growing up, simplifying her process, and making music with a friend proved to be the best step forward for Williamson.

In early 2020, while getting used to the new estrangement and in quarantine with her thoughts, Williamson wrote and recorded the stripped-back standalone single “Pictures of Flowers” by herself at home. This experience became the foundation on which Time Ain’t Accidental was built. The song's lyrical themes were terrestrial and plain-spoken, with Williamson’s voice set against a drum machine and paired with textural guitar by her friend Meg Duffy (Hand Habits). Soon, Williamson realized that musically she was just as good—better, even—on her own. Tours with Weyes Blood, Kevin Morby and Hamilton Leithauser, and José González bolstered this newfound self-assurance, letting her voice ring out in rooms the size of which she hadn’t played before.

Amidst the uncertainty of the pandemic, Williamson began dating in Los Angeles and tracking demos centered on the realness of those experiences, filled with excitement, anxiety, and disappointment. The drum machine stuck around (this time in the form of an iPhone app), as did her determination to forge a new path as a truly solo singer and songwriter; as a woman finding the sound of herself without anyone else’s input. It was a lonely, but revelatory, period.

The core essence of that time is summed up in the opening line of “Hunter.” “I’ve been thrown to the wolves and they ate me raw,” Williamson sings, clear-eyed and with resolve, having come out the other side. Though tumultuous, the process of dating in LA revealed the album’s North Star, which anchors the song’s chorus and the album’s underlying sentiment more broadly: “I’m a hunter for the real thing.”

This theme comes up on the vivid torch song “Chasing Spirits,” when she sings, over whispers of steel guitar, that “the difference between us is when I sing it I really mean it.” The same energy resurfaces on “God in Everything”, with Williamson turning to the supernatural as a way of rising above the earthly realities of dating and rejection. “Being in lockdown alone, fresh out of a breakup, was a real hard time for me,” she remembers. “What I’m grateful for is having a period of stillness and desperation that forced me to turn inward and find comfort in a power greater than myself”.

In the album liner notes, Williamson too included a quote from Carl Jung that was sent to her by a close friend during this era of uncertainty and upheaval. It reads: “To this day God is the name by which I designate all things which cross my willful path violently and recklessly, all things which upset my subjective views, plans, and intentions, and change the course of my life for better or worse.”

After many months spent alone and searching, Williamson finally found the realness she’d been longing for. First came the idea of Plains and the subsequent writing and recording sessions. Then, on one of her regular drives between her adopted home in southern California and her native Texas, Williamson found and rescued her dog, Nana, who had been abandoned and was running alongside a desert highway in New Mexico.

But all good things come in threes, and she soon found new love with an old acquaintance in Marfa, Texas, addressed straightforwardly in the title track “Time Ain’t Accidental.” “We fell for each other when I was out in West Texas visiting a friend, but then I left to go back to LA,” Williamson explains. “I wasn’t sure if or when we’d see each other again, but I felt so full of love and I hadn’t felt that way in a very long time. I wrote this song the day I got back home. It’s really the story of a day together—we flirted by a hotel pool bar and went on a drive, we had a sweet night—and then I had to go, neither of us really knowing what, if anything, would come next.”

Williamson brought the suite of demos and her newfound assurance to Brad Cook (who’d produced Plains) in Durham, North Carolina. The familiar setting fostered a safe environment for the deeply personal material, and Williamson unleashed her voice with total unselfconsciousness. They tracked her vocals in just a couple of takes for each song. “I kept thinking, ‘my voice feels different now – it’s been liberated,’” Williamson reflects. Cook encouraged Williamson to keep the iPhone app drum machine beats she’d programmed for some of the demos, then married it with banjos and steel guitars for an evident sense of old-meets-new.

Williamson now splits her time between Marfa, Texas and Los Angeles. Time Ain’t Accidental, with its synthesis of traditional country instrumentation with digital effects and modern sounds, unequivocally embodies the energy of the two very different places that she calls home. The album’s artwork, subtly menacing and neon in awareness and strength, displays, in Williamson’s words, “that supernatural forces are acting all around us, that we can trust that we will be in the right place at the right time.”

While Time Ain’t Accidental is remarkable for its bare confidence born of searching and longing for something real, Williamson also recognizes the mysterious whims of time that bricked her path (and she memorialized them on the title track). Ultimately, these unseen forces lured the singer back into her own. The timing was, indeed, no accident.

ERIN RAE

Three years after the release of her critically acclaimed debut, Putting On Airs, Nashville-raised singer-songwriter Erin Rae shares an intimate, honest, and playful version of herself through her sophomore album Lighten Up. Produced by Jonathan Wilson, and recorded in the musically hallowed grounds of California’s Topanga Canyon, the album represents a sonic and inner shift for Rae. In it, she embraces more of her influences, like baroque-pop, cosmic country, and indie-folk songs while mirroring a more compassionate self-view she calls “accepting my humanness”. Although she grew up in a musically oriented family, Rae’s pursuit of music happened by accident. After being gifted a Martin acoustic guitar on her 18th birthday, Rae decided to drop out of college after just one semester. Her goal at the time had little to do with making music into a career, and everything to do with spending more time and energy with the community of musicians and writers she knew back home. Looking back on those days, she recalls the initial high of playing live at an open mic during winter break and realizing, “this is how I connect with people. I have to pursue this.” Rae has continued to connect with people through her music ever since, performing at mainstays like Newport Folk Festival, Red Rocks Amphitheater, and sharing stages with Father John Misty, Hiss Golden Messenger, Jenny Lewis, Jason Isbell, and Iron & Wine. The success of Putting On Airs also earned her a nomination for Emerging Act of The Year at the 2019 Americana Music Awards alongside other trailblazing artists like Yola, Jade Bird, and J.S. Ondara. When the Covid-19 pandemic called a halt to touring, Rae took advantage of the opportunity to revel in a wide range of musical influences she had absorbed since the making of Putting On Airs, sitting in an un-rushed space while deciding which direction she wanted to take her music next. Though Rae says the core of her work will always stem from the songwriting she was raised on, the making of Putting On Airs with collaborators Jerry Bernhardt, Dan Knobler, and Dominic Billett inspired her to deepen her music exploration outside the traditional Americana box and listen to records in a broader way. “It opened up a sonic world to me that I had always enjoyed, but that felt mysterious. The process of making my last record allowed me to visualize how recorded sounds come to be, so returning to recordings of beloved artists like Feist, Judee Sill, Wilco, became exciting all over again. I could suddenly imagine what was happening in the room to create what I was hearing on the recording.” This newfound excitement led Rae down many rabbit holes, particularly a deep-dive into English psych-folk artists like Kevin Ayers and Pete Dello And Friends, as well as songwriters like Gene Clark, Scott Walker, and Jesse Winchester. That expansive discovery of musicality led her to connect with Wilson, known for his work with artists like Father John Misty, Jenny O., and Roger Waters. Their shared love for the cinematic pop of the Walker Brothers, Bobbie Gentry, and the folk stylings of Margo Guryan created a solid foundation to create together, so Rae flew to Wilson's Five Star Studios in February 2021. Wilson called on musicians Jake Blanton (Bedouine, The Killers) and Drew Erickson (Weyesblood, Father John Misty) to contribute bass, keys, and string arrangements, and played drums and lead guitars himself. Erin invited friends Kevin Morby and Meg Duffy of Hand Habits to contribute, and Wilson's longtime friend Ny Oh to sing some of the background vocals. The result is a fresh, authentic, and singular collection of recordings that are clearly rooted in a classic "canyon" sound. Lighten Up also showcases a new level of personal growth for Rae, and invites listeners to share in the results of her work towards self-acceptance. “My last record was a lot of self-assessment and criticism, and trying to kick old habits and ways of relating to people,” Rae acknowledges. “This one is about blossoming, opening up, and living a little more in the present moment. Accepting what it is to be human.” In the lead single, “Modern Woman” Rae celebrates womanhood and femininity in all of its forms, countering outdated beliefs over driving drums and rocking guitars and inviting an inclusive perspective through her cheeky lyrics “come see a modern woman.” With “Lighten Up and Try” a song that embodies the album’s title, as well as its ethos, Rae dwells on the process of opening up to love and to life, and the vulnerability that comes with that process. Expounding on the song’s meaning, Rae shares, “This song for me just feels like celebrating the vulnerability of living. Saying yeah, ‘No one really knows what they’re doing. You just have to try.’” In the measured track, “Mind - Heart” Rae outlines the dangers of codependency, and through the straightforward lyrics, “the mind is fucked but the heart is pure,” she meditates on the unreliability of thoughts. “Both of my parents have practiced meditation throughout my life following different traditions. This song for me is essentially using mindfulness to detach from habitual patterns of thought and behavior, and reconnecting to the heart, the intuition.” In “True Love’s Face” she opens to the potential of love and the choice to not flee from it over retro melodies, affirming through her bell-like vocals, “I will know it when I see it / I will not turn it away.” And in the psychedelic “Candy + Curry” Rae balances awakening and being centered in the present moment, with a soundscape that invites the listener to relax and enjoy the ride. With Lighten Up, Rae hopes to give listeners the opportunity to borrow what she’s learned, that there can be a lightness when things feel heavy and that even our darkest corners can allow us to shine. “I hope this record encourages people to be a little softer towards themselves.” Rae shares. “If [Lighten Up] gives people listening the space to feel more tender towards themselves and move in the world from that place, that would be the dream for me.”