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.
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.”