Time Ain’t Accidental
ABOVE THE CURRENT
Time Ain’t Accidental brims with possibility, much like a speeding car racing toward the unknown on an open road surrounded by endless plains and mountains. Texas-born songwriter Jess Williamson sets the tone for her fifth solo album (following last fall’s debut as Plains alongside Waxahatchee) by leaning into conventional country-style guitar riffs and motifs, interpolating them with drum machines, and gluing them all together with strings and reverb—a pleasantly modern twist while nodding to the country ballads of old from forebears like Willie Nelson and Emmylou Harris.
Although many post-break-up albums can linger on sadness and loss, Williamson maneuvers away from such a one-dimensional approach and creates something cerebral and complex. In Williamson’s world, love is the medicine but not the cure. The title track proves that loss may not necessarily be a bad thing, but rather just a door to something new: “Known you for a while, but you’d been someone else’s baby… Torn up over timing, but time ain’t accidental,” sings Williamson, realizing there may be something more mystical at play after enduring a breakup.
Throughout the record, Williamson struggles with subjectivity and struggles to overcome a masochistic dependency on the other. Recalling Loretta Lynn’s “The Pill,” Williamson opts to take control of her destiny and sexuality. With lines like “To the angel in bed with me, his face between my legs” and “In his bedroom by the candlelight / When I’m down on my knees,” life post-break-up feels like liberation. However, her pain is still ever-present as she strains to understand her past, as moments of grandiosity give way to moments of vulnerability.
Relationships can be tricky and even diminishing when they become dysfunctional. “I’m not a good woman if I leave or if I stay,” sings Williamson on “Something in the Way,” which is about being caught in an untenable situation. It’s no surprise, then, that she references Raymond Carver, a literary master of minimalist dirty realism—a technique Williamson uses to show the often paradoxical emotional journey of a breakup with one foot in the past and the other in the future. Life isn’t clean-cut, and Williamson embraces these complexities both lyrically and musically on Time Ain’t Accidental. Like a chef perfecting the taste, color, and smell of a dish, Williamson creates her most sensually compelling album to date.