CRIS WILLIAMSON has a strong, pure, full voice that has led some to compare her to Judy Collins, Linda Ronstadt and Jennifer Warnes. But at her best, Williamson's sound is warmer and more direct, with an appealingly sympathetic quality.
On "Wolf Moon," the singer/songwriter/cofounder of Olivia Records moves beyond the acoustic "women's music" ethic, patterning her phrasing and instrumentation after Joni Mitchell's "Dog Eat Dog" LP. The singer achieves a more pop-oriented reworking of Mitchell's clipped vocals and chiming synths, but falls far short of her model's songwriting.
The 10 selections clarify Williamson's real strength: singing. And here she roams expressively over the bright melodies of "Pieces of Pangaea" and "Black Fin." Closer attention, however, reveals lyrics that are too often vague and insubstantial. Williamson includes a cover of "Come Go With Me," an outing that should have been a playful romp but sounds thin and mechanical. The record ends with "Goodnight, Marjorie Morningstar," a wistfully sung but lyrically cloying tribute to the late Natalie Wood.
Williamson's vocal gifts are supported by a good band that includes guitarists Tret Fure and June Millington (you may remember Millington from Fanny, the pre-Go-Gos all-girl group), violist Novi Novog and Denny Seiwell, who used to play drums for Paul McCartney's Wings. But their fine work is blurred by the production (by Williamson and Fure), an out-of-focus sound that reins in Williamson's vocal power and saps some of the energetic snap from her music. CRIS WILLIAMSON --
"Wolf Moon" (Olivia LF 951). Appearing Friday with Tret Fure and Cassleberry-Dupree at Lisner Auditorium.