LUCINDA WILLIAMS – ” Good Souls Better Angels ” Albums Of 2020

Posted: April 29, 2020 in ALBUMS, MUSIC
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The new “Good Souls Better Angels!”, which Lucinda Williams recorded in just over 15 days in the fall of 2019, is another landmark release, though it might not do much to further expand her fan base. Largely co-written by Williams and her husband Tom Overby, it’s a challenging album that makes few if any concessions to achieve commercial success. And don’t look to this record for Williams to deliver any “Passionate Kisses” (the title of a popular early number); her mood here is much more often angry and foreboding than romantic.

Three-time Grammy Award winner Lucinda Williams unabashedly takes on some of the human, social and political issues of our day with her boldest and most direct album to date, Good Souls Better Angels.

During the course of her celebrated four-decade, pioneering career Williams has never rested on her laurels as she continues to push herself as a songwriter. On Good Souls Better Angels, she has much she needs to get out. In 2014 and 2015, Williams released two critically acclaimed double albums back to back with Down Where The Spirit Meets The Bone and The Ghosts Of Highway 20, respectively. Both releases found her experimenting with arrangements, vocals, song structure and personal subject matter.

On Good Souls Better Angels, Williams changes course and chooses to forgo the personal and narrative-based song craft that has become synonymous with her name and instead speaks to some of the injustices permeating our society. The new songs cut straight to the core with frank and honest commentary on domestic abuse (Wakin’ Up), the constant barrage of news (Bad News Blues) the dangerous, quick to judge and convict aspects of social media (Shadows and Doubts) and the haunting reality of the Man Without A Soul.

Williams recorded Good Souls Better Angels backed by her remarkable, long time band, featuring Butch Norton (drums), Stuart Mathis (guitar) and David Sutton (bass). The rock-solid unit propels the music with both fire and finesse, particularly on the raw blues number You Can’t Rule Me, which kicks off the album with equal parts attitude and swing.

Good Souls Better Angels also features some of Williams’ most intimate and up front vocals on record. She addresses the pain of depression on the achingly beautiful Big Black Train and tenderly delivers a poignant song of hope with When The Way Gets Dark. She encourages us to push forward on the path of promise and perseverance on the deeply soulful and moving album closer Good Souls. Good Souls Better Angels marks the first time Williams’ husband / manager Tom Overby is credited as a co-writer on many of the new songs. The album was co-produced by Williams, Overby and Ray Kennedy, who last worked with Williams on her 1998 landmark classic album Car Wheels On A Gravel Road.

Williams recorded Good Souls Better Angels backed by her remarkable, long time band, featuring Butch Norton (drums), Stuart Mathis (guitar) and David Sutton (bass). The rock-solid unit propels the music with both fire and finesse, particularly on the raw blues number You Can’t Rule Me, which kicks off the album with equal parts attitude and swing.

Good Souls Better Angels also features some of Williams’ most intimate and up front vocals on record. She addresses the pain of depression on the achingly beautiful Big Black Train and tenderly delivers a poignant song of hope with When The Way Gets Dark. She encourages us to push forward on the path of promise and perseverance on the deeply soulful and moving album closer Good Souls. Good Souls Better Angels marks the first time Williams’ husband / manager Tom Overby is credited as a co-writer on many of the new songs. The album was co-produced by Williams, Overby and Ray Kennedy, who last worked with Williams on her 1998 landmark classic album Car Wheels On A Gravel Road.

The songs on Good Souls, while a perfect snapshot of enlightened anger, aren’t all brand new. The sludgy blues tune “Bone Of Contention” dates back to 2005, just missing the cutoff for the alt-country troubadour’s 2007 album West. “You’re the splinter in my finger / you’re the knife in my back / you’re the bone of contention,” Williams sings in her signature snarl that has made her a legend in the eyes of so many, sounding more furious than she ever has before. That fury is what makes this album, even the songs that were written a few years earlier, so topical. Similar to the way Fiona Apple’s Fetch the Bolt Cutters has resonated so fiercely just a week ahead of Williams’ Good Souls Better Angels, these songs weren’t written about our current state of frenzied pandemic panic, but their arrival during spring 2020 gives them an especially clairvoyant air. A rebellious spirit is certainly seeping out from every angle on Good Souls Better Angels. “You can’t rule me,” Williams declares right out of the gate. She also bemoans the relentless news cycle on “Bad News Blues,” laments the content of those news cycles on “Big Rotator,”

She scorns evil men “of hate, envy and doubt” over a swirling vortex of guitar feedback on “Man Without A Soul.” While there’s one “man” in particular who lyrics like “You bring nothing good to this world / Beyond a web of cheating and stealing / You hide behind your wall of lies” may call to mind, it’s not necessarily a slam of Potus specifically—but it sure does work well as one.

Lucinda Williams is the opposite of every Boomer stereotype. She’s politically enraged, and she’s certainly not worthy of the “out of touch” label slapped on many Boomers.

On this new album Good Souls Better Angels, and during a recent phone call, she sounds just as fed up with everything as millennials are. “It’s pervasive—that feeling that you’re always getting, of being astounded and shocked and pissed off,” Williams, now 67 years of age, says. “I’m mad. I’m frustrated.” The songs on Good Souls, while a perfect snapshot of this enlightened anger, aren’t all brand new. Williams, one of the most decorated songwriters in Americana music, describes this phenomenon as “ironic.”

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