Despite her share of critical acclaim, American country singer-songwriter Lucinda Williams remains underrated when her success is compared to her talent. Emmylou Harris said of Williams, "She is an example of the best of what country at least says it is. But, for some reason, she's completely out of the loop. And I feel strongly that that's country music's loss."
Williams has long been an artist I have been aware of as the kinda singer I'd like. Whenever I came across her, she impressed me -- and made me think "I should really investigate her stuff more seriously". For some reason, it was only recently I did -- first, these being the times they are -- via random songs on YouTube and then more seriously, album by album, on Spotify.
From the start, I was deeply impressed -- even blown away by the quality of the songwriting and, in the live clips, Williams' ability to inhabit a song and draw out all of its emotional power. In fact, the combination brought to mind Tom Waits in its potency -- which anyone who has read this blog knows is not small praise from me.
So here are five Lucinda Williams songs. They are not an attempt to be her "Five Best Songs", but a taster -- five songs that seem to me to be able to can draw out some of her power as a performer, which is why all five are clips of live performances. It is also a YouTube playlist.
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'Little bit of dirt mixed with tears...' A wonderful poem about daily life put to great music and performed very solidly in this clip. When I decided it was time to start looking at what Lucinda Williams had to offer on YouTube, this was the very fist clip I played -- and I was instantly hooked. From the 1998 album of the same name.
'How would broken find the bone?' Well... talk about great poems... this one is beautiful and hopeful and melancholic and devastatingly, heartbreakingly sad all at the same time. It is songs like this that are needed to process the world around us, in all it horror -- big and small. This is what art is for. From the 2003 album of the same name.
...Take the high road or take the low
No one but you and God will ever know
And you might play rough and win or lose
Either way, love, you'll get the blues
From the cradle to the grave
You will always be a slave
To the quiet darkness of your memories
And that's the truth, my friend
The ugly truth, my friend...
Yeah well, start to finish, a killer track that one. From Williams' most recent album, 2011's Blessed.
'Sun came up it was another day. And the sun went down you were blown away...' Williams' scintillating, heartfelt song for down-and-out Texas country singer Blaze Foley, tragically killed in 1989 defending a friend. The jury let the killer off, in part, it has been said, due to a lack of belief the white Foley would have been in a predominantly poor Black area simply because he friends with a Black man rather than a more sinister reason. From 1998's Car Wheels on a Gravel Road.
'Please come find me and help me get fucked up ...' Sometimes, love is meant to be a bit fucked up and accompanied by some really cool guitar playing. From the 2001 album of the same name.
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'Hush a wild violet, hush a band of gold. Hush you're in a story I heard somebody told...' Williams spinetingling cover of Tom Waits' 'Hang Down Your Head'. There was noway I'd get through an *entire* blog post without Waits in some form.