Picture an old, tattered copy of Whitman's Leaves of Grass sitting in a murky basement of whatever house you grew up in. Now, picture finding that one night at 3 a.m., reeling from the loss of someone or something, seismic or miniscule. When Work Is Done by Tim Williams is kind of like that.
With each one of his songs Williams paints open door portraits of life hinging on piercing naturalness: the contemplative guitar, the dusty room reverb, and the voice that cracks with the freedom of two bottles of red wine. This is not some stock attempt at honesty and impact; it's a fresh, rough, impressionistic landscape of the world as he sees it.
Perhaps nobody knows this more than UK-based producer Dave Lynch (The Duke Special, The Late Greats) who successfully sought out that honesty and vulnerability when putting Williams' music to tape. The two met following a performance by Williams at 2004's CMJ Music Marathon in New York and got each other's creative juices flowing immediately. Lynch claimed he understood what Williams was going for on his beautifully spare and tragic self-released album, Tales Of Digression (2004), but felt that with the help of his knob twisting the end result would be a more upbeat, direct approach.
Williams acquiesced and a year later headed from Brooklyn, N.Y. to “Grannytown” Eastbourne, England to lay tracks for an upcoming release, dubbed The Merchant Heart EP (Dovecote, 2006).
Rounded out by brothers Paul (bass, guitar) and Phil (drums) Wilkinson of Belfast outfit the Amazing Pilots, the session results were exactly what Lynch promised that night in New York – more direct, focused, and hopeful, offering a light at the end of the dark, alcohol-stained tunnel Williams presented on Digression. Before the songs were even released, a full-length was planned and this time Lynch and Paul Wilkinson would share production duties.
Williams began writing in earnest, demoing an arsenal of nearly a hundred songs in his Brooklyn apartment. With the process set in motion, an unexpected robbery threatened to derail the whole thing. “Paul flew over here to do some pre-production and help me sort through the songs I had composed,” recalls Williams. “The day before he arrived my apartment was broken into and my computer – with all my demos on it – was stolen along with my glasses and beard trimmer.”
In the face of losing months and months of painstaking effort Williams purchased a four-track and demoed the fifty or so songs that he could remember. Eventually 25 were selected to be laid to tape back in England and in July of 2006 Williams headed back across the pond for the two-week long sessions. While the process went along well, when Williams arrived back in New York he felt unsatisfied. Four months later the singer boarded yet another Britain-bound flight for mixing, more programming, and ultimately the addition of two new compositions.
The resulting When Work Is Done, due October 2nd via New York indie Dovecote Records (Aberdeen City, Mason Proper), is a strikingly confident work that boldy drifts from keyboard-laden marches (“To And From Tomorrow”), to earnest Americana (“Lessons”) and fuzzed-out electro balladry (“Out There”). Lead single “Novel,” gleaned from the initial Merchant Heart sessions, is a bright and deliberate pop song with a hell of a keyboard line, proving that Williams has moved on from the often morose implications of Digression. “I couldn't feel more different from the person who wrote it” he exclaims assuredly.
Reflecting on the incident of thievery that threatened the project initially, Williams chalks it up to serendipity. “I think it happened for a reason,” he says. “The songs I remembered are the songs that needed to be on this record.”