Finding Sweet Relief

Sweet Relief Musicians Fund is a charitable organization established to assist uninsured musicians facing serious medical bills. The fund originated from a series of benefit concerts in 1992 and 1993 to help Victoria Williams pay for her $20,000-plus multiple sclerosis treatment.

In 1993, the tribute-benefit album Sweet Relief: A Benefit for Victoria Williams was released on Thirsty Ear/CHAOS. It features a community of musicians who rallied around Williams with the initial concerts (Maria McKee, Michael Penn, and Lou Reed), as well as some who got on board for the album (Soul Asylum, Lucinda Williams, Pearl Jam, Buffalo Tom, The Jayhawks, Shudder to Think, Matthew Sweet, Evan Dando, The Waterboys, Giant Sand, and Michelle Shocked). The album garnered four stars ("excellent") in Rolling Stone and was June’s Album of the Month in Vox.

The final tally of contributors is pretty impressive, covering well-known folk singers and MTV-friendly "alternative" stars, as well as some genuinely original eccentrics. The album sold so well that Williams’ medical bills were paid, and the Sweet Relief Musicians Fund was established.

A second benefit album was released in support of Vic Chestnutt, a fantastically gifted songwriter who finds life in a wheelchair expensive. With the success of the first album, the second, featuring R.E.M., Garbage, Kristin Hersh, and a surprisingly wonderful Madonna (taking a delicious back seat to brother-in-law Joe Henry’s lead vocal), was a guaranteed winner. Vic Chestnutt performed "God Is Good" with Victoria Williams, a song they’d penned especially for the album.

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Sojourners Magazine July-August 1997
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