What Did I Do?
Singer/songwriter/guitarist Cristina Williams embodies a hybrid of musical influences you probably haven't come across in the current pop rock climate. Imagine the self-possessed rock attitude of Chrissie Hynde channeling Linda Rondstadt's 70's California folk/rock cool. Yeah, wild. As an artist whose music preserves what she loves from the past while creating an expression of our own times, Cristina is a self-confessed former Florida folkie who moved to New York and converted to an old school Rock 'N' Roller. With the help of Jamie Laboz (producer), Dan Green (bass), Michael P Nordberg (drums) and Alan Camlet (engineer), Cristina channeled those spirits into her sophomore release, the Cowards in Love EP -- a short collection of love songs that 'put the fun back in dysfunctional.' 'As a child, I listened to my dad's collection of 45s by The Beatles, Linda Ronstadt and the Beach Boys,' says Cristina. 'I was enchanted from the get go.' Cristina's dad Tom Williams, a local singer/songwriter-turned schoolteacher, also shared with his daughter his passion for guitars. He taught her to play when she was ten and schooled her in folk songs from the 60's and 70's as well as Buffalo Springfield, Bob Dylan and her favorite, Neil Young. 'Neil Young, George Harrison, and Pete Townshend are big guitar heroes of mine,' she says, 'but my dad was my biggest influence.' When she started writing original songs, folk artists like Eric Anderson and Judy Collins informed her storytelling, while Southern rock bands like Lynyrd Skynard, Allman Brothers, and Tom Petty inspired her classic rock sensibilities. In the late summer of 1998, Cristina's desire to pursue an acting career took her from a laid back Florida lifestyle to the frenzy and hustle of New York City. Her path abruptly changed when she took part in a talent show sponsored by her day job. 'I hadn't sung my songs in a while, but one of my coworkers was an amateur producer. He offered to produce a demo of my songs, and I started meeting some local rock musicians and falling in with that scene. I realized what I really wanted to do was rock.' In the late summer of 1998, Cristina's desire to pursue an acting career took her from a laid back Florida lifestyle to the frenzy and hustle of New York City. Her path abruptly changed when she took part in a talent show sponsored by her day job. 'I hadn't sung my songs in a while, but one of my coworkers was an amateur producer. He offered to produce a demo of my songs, and I started meeting some local rock musicians and falling in with that scene. I realized what I really wanted to do was rock.' In January 2001, Cristina began recording her debut, 'What Did I Do?', a process she jokingly refers to as both 'a trial by fire and a comedy of errors.' First, her original producer vanished and she went through a few musicians before finding drummer Ronen Barak and bassist Dan Green. She knew immediately these were the players she needed. 'Ronen is an incredible drummer, very precise and hard rocking and Dan's bass playing is so intuitive, he's perfect for my style of music.' Duke, a friend who'd engineered her demo, took over the roles of producer and lead guitarist. 'Duke is an extremely inventive and versatile guitarist,' Cristina offers. 'Beyond that, his engineering and production skills were invaluable.' Nearly a year and half in the making, 'What Did I Do?' was released in June 2002. As Cristina's life lessons awakened within her a renewed passion for her music, these twelve songs harnessed an energy that was at the same time both sensual and cerebral. The lyrics hit hard but have a sense of poetry and perception that comes from a songwriter who creates from real life experience. Cristina's voice and guitar playing got you listening, but it was the words and the stories within the songs that made an even deeper connection. A few songs have a strong alt-country flavor, but it's as if Chrissie Hynde brought her rock swagger into a honky tonk, as heard on the album's opener, 'Good Time.' On 'Make You Happy,' a flamenco guitar on the verses gives way to a farfisa organ on the chorus, foreshadowing Cristina's rocker chick soul itching to break free. The guitar work on 'Ties That Bind,' one of her earliest songs, shows her Tom Petty influence. Mellow ballads like 'Don't Worry' and 'In Your Arms' reveal an appealing vulnerability and desire to find lasting love; while the title track is her whip-smart commentary on the 'singles scene' as she stands up to yet another bar room pick-up artist. The autobiographical 'Florida Girl' chronicles Cristina's move from down south to the big city. Though she sings 'I'm a Yankee now, by address' she's admits she's still 'got a Cuban soul and a red neck spine.' 'Summer Moon Song' rocks out with a libidinous, rhythmic pull and 'Swamp Thing,' her take on making peace with a failed relationship, adds more sensuousness. Finally, Cristina's folk roots shine on the acoustically driven 'I'll Let You Go' and the closing track, 'Trying to Fly.' The album's ambitious variety of moods and textures creates an emotionally satisfying mix. 'What Did I Do?' garnered recognition from respected online outlets like Musicdish.com and NYRock.com, as well as reputable print publications like Billboard and Amplifier magazine, which praised 'What Did I Do?' as 'an album of contradictions without compromise. Williams is clearly a songwriter before all else. She also has the ability to bring her personal and plaintive lyrics to life. What Did I Do? has the feel of a live performance, with Williams' energy breaking through each song.' from MUSICDISH.COM: Cristina Williams has a half smile 'What Did I Do?' smirk on her face on the cover of this CD. Pictures really are worth more than a thousand words aren't they? She does look suspiciously guilty now doesn't she? Well, she is guilty. One, for rocking her ass off on this CD, the other counts being that she sings with soul, power, and not to mention beauty, when necessary. So what else is there when it comes to good music? What's a girl to do after outdoing herself and completely blowing me away with some serious rock 'n roll and a totally kick ass band? Absolutely nothing, that's what. Watch out guys, you may just fall in love with this hard rockin' diva; she's got it goin' on. She sounds like a little bit Sheryl Crow, and all the rest is pure Cristina, no other comparisons come to mind or are necessary. There are some great guitar licks weaving their way in out of each track on this disc. Whether it's acoustic or electric, the musicianship is exemplary throughout. What's my fav track? How about all of them? I am not kidding; I really got into a groove listening to this entire CD. The most appealing thing about her voice is her ability to appease and allure you with a beautiful ballad while at the same time allowing room for excitement and a good jolt of sexual electricity. When she rocks, she rocks, there is no room for waffling with this girl, and she comes straight at ya holding nothing back. That is a redeeming quality for any artist as far as I am concerned. I like a woman rocker with enough balls and gumption to put her heart on her sleeve and play her heart out on every song. As a listener I couldn't possibly ask for anything more than that, as a reviewer it was a total joy and a complete experience. From AMPLIFIER MAGAZINE: 'What Did I Do?, the debut release from Cristina Williams Band, is an album of contradictions without compromise. Hailing from Florida and raised in a Cuban-American family, she incorporates reggae sounds ('Make You Happy') along with the blues of title song. When Williams branches off into the spoken word of 'Summer Moon' or the brooding 'I'll Let You Go,' the breadth of her emotion is striking. Comparisons to Maria McKee and Melissa Etheridge are deserved as Williams is clearly a songwriter before all else. But she also has the ability to bring her personal and plaintive lyrics to life. Backed by a strong band, What Did I Do? has the feel of a live performance, with Williams' energy breaking through each song.'