Jess Williamson Explores the Corporeal and Sublime on 'Time Ain't Accidental'

BY Dylan BarnabePublished Jun 7, 2023

For a split second, as Time Ain't Accidental's title track gets underway, you might think of early Taylor Swift. The unassuming country affectation, engaging narrative songwriting, and catchy melodic arcs certainly skew toward Swift's brand, but by tracks two and three it's clear — crystal clear — that this talent is wholly unique in and of itself. 

Jess Williamson, based in Los Angeles and born in Texas, has built a steady following since the release of Cosmic Wink in 2018 and its 2020 followup Sorceress. Last year, she teamed up with Waxahatchee's Katie Crutchfield under the moniker Plains, and put out one of the more exciting country collaborations in recent memory with I Walked with You a Ways. An established multi-instrumentalist and singer songwriter, Williamson returns to the spotlight with Time Ain't Accidental — a deeply personal and self-affirming album filled with an intimate exploration of the corporeal and sublime. 

Time Ain't Accidental is filled with minimalist modern country ballads that gently dissolve like a sugar cube on your tongue; alongside alumni artists like Kurt Vile and Weyes Blood, it's not a stretch to imagine how Williamson's unique blend of Americana — paired with L.A.'s bustling pop sensibilities — found a supportive home amongst Mexican Summer's stacked roster. 

The inspiration behind Time Ain't Accidental owes itself, like many artistic sparks, to heartbreak. After Williamson's romantic partner and longtime musical collaborator left at the beginning of the pandemic, it provided the space for the singer-songwriter to experience a real reckoning — both personal and professional. Having to learn to stand on her own again forced Williamson to ask the Big Questions and trust in herself. What does it mean to chase your dreams? To follow your heart? To stay true? The songs stretch out like a long highway, or "holy roads," that tender redemption and resurrection at every turn. 

For Williamson, learning to trust, whether in yourself or a higher power ("God Is Everywhere"), is a process. Time ain't accidental, so to speak, and there's always a reason why things happen. A lot of life is figuring out how to have faith in the idea of being in the right place at the right time. Williamson oscillates between the physical and the supernatural; like on the striking cover art, depicting a flash of lightning, she describes herself and her feelings through the lens of natural disasters. "Got a Hurricane / In my heart for you / Hailstorm in my head / Tornado blowing through my bones / And there's flooding up ahead," she sings on the closer. Williamson is all-powerful, but controlling the tempest of life's ups and downs is no easy work. 

Her journey of empowerment and acceptance quietly gathers momentum across the album. On "A Few Seasons," she wrestles with the toll of a relationship and speaks to the erasure of her very being: "How I did accommodate and get so small / Stepped so far out of the way / Now nothin's there at all." But she regains a hunger, or a recognition of her hunger, by the next track "Guess I've always been hungry / For them hearts just outta my reach." Unabashedly, she is a "hunter for the real thing."

While Williamson mines the usual caves of longing, loneliness, and love with the alacrity of a veteran country queen like Emmylou, the real gem unearthed is the newfound confidence and assurance of her voice. It soars to spectacular heights with little more gusto than a whisper and guts you with its raw vulnerability. She has a natural ear for authenticity, and her take on modern country never shies away from innovation (think iPhone app drum machines matched with in-studio banjos and steel guitars).      

Though we aren't likely to see Williamson headlining a world tour or garnering legions of diehard fans like Swift anytime soon, she is cultivating a different kind of quiet revolution. It starts with the individual — trust in the metamorphosis, time is on your side. 
(Mexican Summer)

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