Texas songstress Jess Williamson invokes early Cat Power and This Mortal Coil with a new track haunted by the ghosts of the desert Southwest.

By the time you’ve digested Jess Williamson’s early-2014 debut, Native State—moodily droning electrics mixed in with slowly plucked banjos and impassioned vocal flourishes that vacillate between cooing, purring, tense restraint, and soulful emotiveness—you’ve effectively answered the question, “What if Cat Power had been signed to 4AD in the early ’90s?”

Now Williamson has released “Snake Song,” part of a split 7" single with RF Shannon—fellow Austinites who she recently toured the Southwest with. It seems the vast desertscapes observed between city gigs played a big role in the vibe, too, because the four-minute track stretches out with the desolate elegance of Ry Cooder’s 1984 soundtrack for Paris Texas.

But by tapping RF Shannon as her backing band, Williamson ensures that the soundscapes on “Snake Song” are more pastoral than the darkened corners of 4AD founder Ivo Watts-Russell’s trio of This Mortal Coil records. With smoldering electric leads that owe more to Calexico than Simon Raymonde, Williamson instead comes off sounding like an Americana apparition rather than a post-goth vestige. jesswilliamson.com

Can a bona fide funk guru help design a better Klone?

Wide range of gain. Very useful EQ.

Doesn’t do the Klon clean boost as well as original.

$349

Jackson Audio The Optimist
jackson.audio

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Jackson Audio’s pedal collaboration with modern funk hero Cory Wong could have taken a few different paths. Considering Wong’s style, a compressor would have been an obvious choice. Instead, the Optimist is a dual overdrive that builds on a Klon-inspired baseline, adds a second overdrive, and has a clever EQ to create a super-flexible overdrive. Named after Wong’s second album, The Optimist suits Wong’s exuberant and fun-loving personality. But it also describes the way you might approach a gig with this pedal in hand. Together, the two separate overdrives and active EQ give you enough tones to cover almost any gig this side of Slayer cover band.

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Marty Stuart

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How does a legacy artist stay on top of his game? The pianist, hit singer-songwriter, producer, and composer talks about the importance of musical growth and positive affirmation; his love for angular melodicism; playing jazz, pop, classical, bluegrass, jam, and soundtrack music; and collaborating with his favorite guitarists, including Pat Metheny and Jerry Garcia.

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