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The best kept secret in music

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Amanda Jo Williams: “Ohio"
>From Yes I Will Mr. Man (859; 2006)
>Download MP3

Almost everybody I’ve played this for has been all “seriously?” I don’t care. I love this shit, and I’ll take you all to task. Peppered in among the country-throbbed guitars and violins that link like lumbar to the spinal cartilage of this walking bass line, Williams’ voice sounds almost pretty, which -- and I’ll get to this in more detail when I review the whole album when the Glow returns from vacation -- is strange enough, since that’s certainly not the point, and her guttural affectations allow country and punk to coexist believably. This voice… this isn’t a Newsom argument, because I don’t think Williams wants us to like her music despite her voice -- the voice is the point, and like the greatest experimental players, she’s pulling out this whole inflective dada act like it’s the most natural thing in the would.
The revolving chorus structures that verbally palindrome onomatopoeic phrases into double-citations of the state’s name (o - HI - O - o - hi - O!) are enrapturing, and then when the key changes slightly for “just another man,” and Williams almost sings on key? Mindfuck. I’m not even entirely sure what “Ohio” is about, but I don’t care, because I’m square-dancing along with the hook (“ah-ee-wa-ooh-wa-ee-wa-ooh”) and just assuming that when she screams “I don’t know you / I don’t know you / I don’t know you / I don’t see you / You’re just another man” she’s pissed off. I don’t know you, Amanda Jo Williams, but I’m freaking out about your music.
-Mark Abraham

http://www.cokemachineglow.com/songs/index.html
- www.cokemachineglow.com


http://cokemachineglow.com./reviews/ajw_mrman2006.html


Arm-chair scientists -- hell, probably real scientists, too -- always proclaim that smell is the sense most closely linked to memory, and fine, that’s probably true. But I think sound -- or at least the sound of a pleasantly grating voice -- comes a close second. There’s no science to that declaration beyond the oxymoronic modifiers, but I can remember those voices in my life that were so weird and yet somehow more clear or descriptive and those are moments that I can return to just by letting their reflective larynx nails and barbs scrape down the chalkboard of my memory.

Lame reveal: Williams’ is one of those voices. Which doesn’t mean much, given that the history of rock and roll has been one, at least in part, of getting over the novelty of annoying vocal chords. Over fifty years ago, Dylan’s popularity made arguments about the power or grotesqueness of a particular voice a fucking crime against intelligent thought, because who cares? Music is a form of expression; expression is free to everybody, bad voices and all, and 3AM cigarettes inhaled between pretentious declarations of “his voice is so fragile and off-key and that’s what makes it so powerful” won’t convince me that it’s the voice itself that gets that honor. If we can accept Miles Davis warbling through a wah pedal or John Cale’s violin or the sonic trickery of Wolf Parade or Deerhoof or all the interesting music beyond those borders then why should I tell you that Amanda Jo Williams’ voice isn’t good in any traditional sense? I mean, it’s not that it doesn’t matter, but it doesn’t matter, right?

Two things, sort of. One: if you don’t think you’d like sweeping country pageants fronted by a voice that sounds like the thick rubber of an eighteen-wheeler’s tire being punctured by a rock, this album isn’t for you. You won’t even get past her first inhalation. Two: except, the other side of the “voice question” is when singers get pegged precisely because of what their voices sound like. I like Dylan; I like Antony because of the consistently epic delivery; I like Joanna Newsom because I think I could peel husks off the yellow corn of her skittish oration; I like Scott Walker because you could nest in the misery of his dulcet tones. In all of those cases, however, it’s the song craft that allows the artist to connect, and the personality that makes it work. People’s voices are what they are, and it’s the doing that makes it interesting, because you can’t climb larynx nodes like a ladder to some mythical state of “authenticity.” Williams may or may not be able to sing; I don’t really know because she’s performing the hell out of her lyrics, punctuating and rolling phrases like the traditional epistemology of pop vocalism was written in the leftover fluid from Eric Dolphy’s spit valve. When she’s at full tilt, which is pretty much always (impressive, because Yes I Will Mr. Man was recorded in a day), strutting through her songs and strangling her own larynx, any conjecture about whether all of her nasty, flagrant emotion is either the direct result of or obstructed by her earthy, untrained voice is going to get drowned in the sheer volume of her words. In fact, forget what I said in thing number one -- back up, buck up and give Williams a try. I dare you. I think if you do make it past her first inhalation, you may just find yourself as giddy as I am.

Because it’s not her voice, once you can separate the hurdles in your mind; it’s her delivery. The appeal for me is the way she knuckles down into the waft of her backing band, sinking and slinging shots in and out with yelps and whoops, speeding up and slowing down her phrasing, creating epic declarations out of distended single vowels, ignoring apophony and umlauted vowels, breaking those syllables apart, reconstructing monosyllables into multi-syllabic phrases, and repeating single phrases while modifying intonations just to up the ante on the uncertainty she feels with the subjects of her lyrics. Every punctuated cadence miasmas its way into your subconscious; every song is map with lines that intersect her conflicted relationship with the south, her home state of Georgia, politics, her past career in modeling, her spontaneous decision to make music, and her dissatisfaction with things or lovers she loves or wants to love. She switches forms with the ease of a martial master, and while on certain tracks like “Close Encounters” or “I Walked Away” it initially sounds like she may just be pushing the country drawl to its illogical extreme, it becomes clear that this inflection is simply part of her overall approach to diction -- another entry in her extensive set of vocal-fight styles. On “ Close Encounters,” casual lines where she expresses high school sentiment and squelches words like “moon” into the drunk-in-a-flatbed “moo-oo-oon” suddenly descend into zealot-rap so quick it’s hard to make out the words. The song changes - www.cokemachineglow.com


http://shakeyourfist.blogspot.com/2006/07/stereotype.html

My quick impressions of a couple of Stereotype's (anything but stereotypical) artists' songs:

Ohio - Amanda Jo Williams
At this point, it's kind of a risky move to write a song called "Ohio" that references Vietnam. Especially if you're a former fashion model. And especially if your vocal style could most politely be termed "Appalachian field recording." But the nice thing about Amanda Jo Williams is that she doesn't seem to give a damn about seeming ridiculous. She has a lack of self-consciousness rarely found this side of children's records. Take the way she belts "Ohhiiooo" with gusto and abandon, like she's trying to outshout guitar and fiddle. It reminds me of how my frustrated little brother used to capitulate to/win verbal arguments by yelling "I can't hear you, I'm not listening, la la la la la." We can always use more eccentrics.
- www.shakeyourfistblogspot.com


http://ikhtonie.net/so_the_wind/?2006/06/28/441-things-you-used-to-do-or-need

Parfois,
on aimerait avoir un album de Ted Nugent sous la main et dans les oreilles. Ainsi, cet après midi. Pas gêné, le type. S'asseoit et m'parle vaguement à c'que j'comprends des chaussettes de Zidane. A l'arrêt de bus. En même temps qu'il me parle, il remonte le bas de son pantalon et délace ses chaussures. "T'as vu ! qu'il dit, j'ai Ses chaussettes !" Surtout je vois que ses chaussures reposent à côté de lui et qu'en monte une odeur que...hum...seul un disque de Ted Nugent aurait pu dissiper ! Ou peut être celui d'Amanda Jo Williams ! Oui m'Sieu',qu'ça l'aurait fait !

(englikhtonian version)
Sometimes one would like to have an album of Ted Nugent under the hand and in the ears. Like me, this afternoon. Free and easy, the guy. He sits down and vaguely speaks to me about Zidane's socks. At the bus stop. As he speaks, he hitches his trouser legs up and unlaces his shoes. "saw You, he says, I have Him socks !" What I especially see is that his shoes are now onthe ground beside him and from there, comes a smell that...hmm...only a Ted Nugent's record could have made it vanish ! Or maybe the first Amanda Jo Williams ! Yes sir, it would have done it !

amanda jo williams
listen/écouter
acheter/buy "yes, I will Mr Man"
ted nugent
acheter/buy "tooth, fang and claw" (gemm) - www.ikhtonie.net


Discography

Army of Love-Demo
Army of Love-General Williams and Sergeant Catfish in the Army of Love
Army of Love-Saves the World Again
Army of Love-Witness to the Monkey
Amanda Jo Williams-Yes I Will Mr. Man

Photos

Feeling a bit camera shy

Bio

Amanda Jo Williams is a country soul. She was born and raised in Georgia, played with the cattle, rode the horses, and nursed sick kittens. She left home at 19 to pursue stardom; it manifested itself as a modeling career, but after a chance visit to Woodstock, NY, Amanda found her calling in music. She has just been signed by Stereotype Records and is expecting her new album, Yes I Will Mr. Man, to be released sometime early summer.