All About Multiple Sclerosis

More MS news articles for March 2003

Combining old and new in a love song to life

Feb 26th, 2003

Victoria Williams is talking from a hotel in Lisbon at the start of what is her longest European tour. Tonight's Glasgow show comes approximately a third of the way through a jaunt that takes in 12 countries over three months.

Being away from home for so long seems contrary to the chosen lifestyle of Williams and her husband, the former Jayhawks vocalist, Mark Olson. It also seems daunting for someone who has multiple sclerosis. But it ties in with Williams's aim of living life to the full. "I've only been here for 44 years," she says, "in the grand scheme of things that is not very long, but especially in times like these you find yourself becoming a lot more spiritual. The realisation that we are all going to die just makes you more focused on making the best of your life."

That life has changed since she and her husband opted out of the major record label system. They moved to the desert (Joshua Tree) in the mid-1990s and began making gorgeous, authentic American folk music.

For Williams, this began with her Musings of a Creekdipper album, while Olsen began to trade as The Original Harmony Creekdippers, a loose assembly of musicians that often included contributions from his wife. The pair tour jointly as the Creekdippers, combining Williams and Olson songs with some standards Williams has tackled on her newest release, Sings Some Ol' Songs. She is committed to her work - making music and painting, though she admits that neither comes easily. "I think I have to put myself under a certain pressure to work," she says, "I find that I have to be completely alone."

Given that it has been more than two years since Williams's last release of original songs (the Water to Drink album), it seems appropriate to ask whether Sings Some Ol' Songs, with its interpretations of Moon River, Somewhere Over the Rainbow, and My Funny Valentine is a stopgap.

"That wasn't the way it was conceived," she says. "I think the first thing is that I really love the songs and love singing them. The second is that I have put a lot of effort into making the songs come alive for me."

That vitality is shared by Williams who did not have medical insurance when she was diagnosed with MS. Artists such as Lou Reed, Pearl Jam, and Maria McKee covered her songs to raise money for treatment and the setting up of a foundation that provides support for musicians. It sits well with Williams's life aim of "to do things quietly and help with people's situations".

The Creekdippers play St Andrew's in the Square tonight.

© Copyright 2003, The Electronic Herald