Despite releasing a string of critically acclaimed albums (both as a member of Acuff's Rose and as a solo artist), the best is yet to come in the career of Jeff Williams. With his band, The Clear Spacemen, he presents a new album, White Under Green, that is both a summation of his past works and a statement of intent for the future.
From 1989 to 1995, Williams led Melbourne outfit Acuff's Rose, one of the progenitors of Melbourne's Alt-Country scene. The band established themselves as critical favourites, but sadly never managed to convert that goodwill into commercial success. In 1999, Jeff released his debut solo album, Clear Space, on Shock Record's Straight Up label.
Jeff 's new combo, The Clear Spacemen, is a musical dream team. Formed in late 1999, the band features David Creese (Dumb Earth frontman and Hired Gun, formerly of Adelaide legends The Lizard Train) on the traps, Phil Kakulas (Blackeyed Susans songwriter and former Triffid) on the double bass, Barry Turnbull (Love Me, Widdershins, Cruel Sea) on lead guitar, and Gerard Rowan (Doug Mansfield & the Dust Devils, Acuff's Rose) on pedal steel and dobro. White Under Green is the recording debut of this outfit, but from the way they play you'd swear that they'd been together for decades.
With White Under Green, Williams has expanded his artistic parameters and produced one of his most satisfying works to date. He draws on his influences, but does not imitate. The CD contains seven new Jeff Williams compositions and three radical reworkings from his back catalog, but don't be fooled, this is an ALBUM. Each song has its place. The track sequence has a narrative flow reminiscent of a film or a novel. [The opening cut, No One's Substitute sets the scene. Barry Turnbull's Morricone-like guitar stylings glide over a rhythm section that's pulsing like the engine shudder of a road-train.]
The recording has the immediacy and clarity of a live performance. This is not surprising as the album was recorded 'live' in the studio over two sessions. The band produced the album with Julian Wu and it was mixed in the Continental Café's recording facility. Julian has recorded Kieran Kane and Kevin Welch (11/12/13 Live In Melbourne), Unwritten Law, The Go-Betweens, Matt Walker and David McComb, to name but a few.
With White Under Green, Jeff Williams delivers an album that lives up to the promise of his earlier work and makes a whole new set of promises of things to come.
"One of the more unique albums we've received over the last few months, Jeff Williams is described as an Australian alt-country artist but more immediately evokes a kind of hybrid between Nick Cave and the Doors - that's not to say the description's totally without merit mind you, but it's more because of the instrumentation than the songs themselves. That's not a criticism, and indeed it's the novelty of hearing such a distinctive album that makes Williams' new CD so appealing, perhaps what ensured it the accolade of Australian album of 2001 from the Age. Produced by Julian Wu who has also worked with the Go-Betweens in the past amongst others, the clarity of McLennan and Forster's recordings right through the nineties is here in abundance too. Everything is supremely crisp without ever sounding too polished. Songs like "All Around You" have a gentle country lilt with well played but subtle slide guitar and lyrics to make grown men weep with their evocative simplicity. Take "Broken into One" with its beautiful verse - "Was it Something that I Said / On the Day You Went Wrong / Like Something Inside Your Head / Was Broken into One." There are as many moments of darkness ("Evil Angels") as there are sadness, and even occasional moments of lighter relief ("Stranger to Your Love" - perhaps the most formulaic but still hugely successful piece of Americana here), but what stands out throughout are the ideal pairing of Williams' stellar songwriting and deep broody voice. Another alt-country act from Australia after Kasey Chambers then, but about as different as you could possibly imagine. There's easily room for both." - Americana-UK Website (UK)
"Jeff Williams & The Clear Spacemen's 'White Under Green' also know how to maintain a mood - usually brooding and smeared with pedal steel. Good songs, nice guitar, smooth vocal." - Mojo
"No. 1 Australian album of the year" - The Age
"Former Acuff's Rose frontman Jeff Williams returns with a striking album of languid, country-toned sounds and taut, Chandleresque tales of betrayal, passion and love gone wrong.... A stirring, sensual and beautifully literate album." 4.5 stars - The Age.
"Hidden among Jeff Williams & The Clear Spacemen is bassist and sure sign of quality Phil Kakulas, and its his woody, sliding melancholy double bass sound that both kicks this album off and best sets the tone for it. Williams breathes life into his tunes courtesy of his uniquely Australian voice and simplistic guitar melodies. This, combined with Kakulas, a pedal steel and the band's slow and Spartan approach, has an effect similar to say the Cowboy Junkies and the Triffids sitting around a bar telling each other stories." - Revolver
"Ay, Carumba! What a gorgeous record! Gorgeous songs. Gorgeous playing. Gorgeous vocals. Gorgeous, rich sound. Jeff Williams writes some mighty fine country songs - and here's ten of 'em, recorded live and done much justice by renowned harvester of good things musical, Mr Julian Wu... But the real star of this album, Williams' second outing since the demise of Acuff's Rose, is the beautiful songs. They're really just gorgeous. What more can you say? - Beat Magazine