I never owned this CD, but I did have a dubbed cassette of it; that’s a thing I might even still own. So this is kind of a re-review.
Sweet Relief was put together in order to raise money for Victoria Williams’ recently diagnosed multiple sclerosis. Williams is a songwriter’s songwriter. She’s got a squeaky, always out of tune voice that makes hearing her performances of her own songs a test of fortitude and an exercise in trying to hear what could be instead of what is. So having 90’s alternative rock royalty play her songs was probably the best prescription for her medical bills.
The album is awesome from start to almost-finish. I could do without the last two tracks, but I’m hot on all of the first 11. These sound is amazing and the bands really bring out the best in the songs Williams created. “Tarbelly And Featherfoot” is probably my favorite Lou Reed song. Same goes for “Lights” and The Jayhawks. I might even go there with Pearl Jam’s “Crazy Mary” if I didn’t have my crazy 2003-tour-induced Clockwork Orange-esque aversion to anything they did on that tour. I’m not really into Buffalo Tom, but I love their noisy take on “Merry Go Round,” Evan Dando is as heartbreak-y sweet as every on “Frying Pan,” and we get to hear one of Soul Asylum’s last pre-complete-suck performances in “Summer Of Drugs.” Even the off-kilter “Weeds” (Michael Penn), “Animal Wild” (Shudder To Think), and “Big Fish” (Giant Sand) have some very strong parts.
I know more than one person who went from this album to buying Williams’ albums directly, usually to discover they couldn’t handle her voice. I’ve not really explored her catalog aside from 1994’s Loose. Sweet Relief is a great starting point and, for many, a great ending point.
– “Summer Of Drugs” (Soul Asylum), “Main Roads” (Lucinda Williams), “Crazy Mary” (Pearl Jam), “Merry Go Round” (Buffalo Tom), “Animal Wild” (Shudder To Think),”Tarbelly And Featherfoot” (Lou Reed), “This Moment” (Matthew Sweet), “Frying Pan” (Evan Dando), “Lights” (The Jayhawks)
– “Weeds” (Michael Penn), “Opelousas (Sweet Relief)” (Maria McKee), “Big Fish” (Giant Sand)
– “Why Look At That Moon” (The Waterboys)
Song Notes: After the jump