As the ripples on the surface of the river mingle and transform the lines and reflections of our world, so Willow Waters’ music shapeshifts and defies categorization. Dancing lithely between rock and roll, country, old folk, and jazz; bolstered by rich, intricate, and often surprising arrangements and instrumentation, her music exhibits exhaustive precision and delightful variety. And centering this vast array of orchestration is Willow’s singular voice – a voice that is grounding in timbre yet soaring in its revelations.
To call Willow’s music “activist”, as some might be tempted to do, would not be wrong exactly, but perhaps it would miss the mark. Or at least not paint a full enough picture. Certainly, she writes from a deeply environmentalist perspective. There are moments in her music when one feels that the voices of the trees and the waters and the skies themselves are singing. And, as a trans-femme, her music is deeply queer and trans-feminist. But, to limit our description to “activist – folk” is a reductive mischaracterization. What Willow’s music achieves is remarkable: she seems to delve deep into the sacred feminine – the ancient current of energy bearing all life – and sings with the powerful voices that there reside. Her music is fertile and abundant. It is at times strong and steadfast as cottonwood roots, and at others light and graceful as her drifting seeds. She sometimes sings with a warm, liquid ease, and sometimes she wails and spits resistance and rebuke.
And then, woven into this rich fabric, is the simple pleasure and delight of walking this earth. The breeze on the mountains, the shade of a tree, and a damn fine cup of coffee. She reminds us of the pure joy of living, the ecstasy of feeling grass on your bare feet. Willow takes us to the heights of spirituality and then eases us down to the crystalline happiness and contentment of earthly existence.
And so it is that this complexity is the greatest lesson of Willow Water’s music: that there can be no earthly delight without the righteous anger and rebuke against the powers that wish to destroy it. The mother bear will happily stand by the riverside, drinking in the waters and bathing in the sunlight, but threaten her and she will rise up, terrible. Willow’s music artfully holds these two forces in taut electric tandem, and reminds us of the radicality of loving existence with every fiber of one’s being.
-written by Carlisle Evans Peck