If you’ve ever been to the “Stella”-shouting contest that happens in Jackson Square to honor Tennessee Williams every March, you’ll understand why Shawn Williams’ “Stella” is a song that needed to be written. The singer manages to channel Stanley Kowalski at his most hell-bent—no small feat for a woman whose deep voice and languid singing style bring Shannon McNally to mind. And she treats the Streetcar-themed lyric as an excuse for some good dirty fun, letting the character work up steam for the inevitable shouts at the end.
Shawn Williams already spends plenty of time on the radio—in her other life, she’s an on-air personality on The Alternative 106.1—so she’s probably got fewer qualms about recording songs that don’t stand a chance in hell of getting airplay. She drops some “fucks” into a few songs, and “You Got Some Growin’ Up to Do,” the other standout tune on her debut, is hopped-up punkabilly that’s frank about why she’s dumping the guy in question. But on the other hand, she’s got a good sense of what makes for a good radio sound: The production gets close to arena-big at times, and her voice is always front and center. And when she wants to get respectable, she’s more than able: “Gone Again” is a love song Stevie Nicks would love; “Shake Shake Shake” cops a Petty-esque heartland rock sound with its power chords and Hammond, and the country ballad “What If I Stayed” is almost a Nashville readymade. It’s easy to imagine her going for the gold if she tones down the words and turns down the guitars, which doesn’t mean you shouldn’t catch her in the meantime.