Posts Tagged ‘Good Souls Better Angels’

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To paraphrase one of her most evocative lyrics, there’s something about what happens when you listen to a Lucinda Williams song. The plain but cultivated beauty of her phrase-turning draws you in, but it’s another quality that makes a novice listener into an ardent fan. It’s the feeling of watching something grow like a flower on a vine: a recollection, a fully fleshed-out image, a person’s inner life unfolding. Williams crafts words and melodies that seem to originate in the listener’s own head, capturing the way stray observations and building reveries intertwine to become the stories we tell ourselves and each other. Her songs bring to mind the way William Carlos Williams (no relation) described the task of writing poetry: “We’re not putting the rose, the single rose, in the little glass vase in the window — we’re digging a hole for the tree — and as we dig have disappeared in it.”

Williams, who releases her 14th studio album “Good Souls Better Angels” today, was born to this process. Her father Miller was, in fact, a poet and a literature professor, and after a youth moving around the Deep South, she modified the family trade to become a singer-songwriter. A folk singer at first, Williams broke through in the late 1980s in the wake of a group of artists — Rosanne Cash, Steve Earle, Rodney Crowell, Lyle Lovett — who took rock and roll chances with roots-music legacies. A critics’ pick and songwriter’s songwriter who gained some fame when Mary Chapin Carpenter had a crossover country hit with her song “Passionate Kisses” in 1993, Williams became a true legend with the 1998 release of “Car Wheels on a Gravel Road” a perfect work of observational storytelling that both defined the nascent Americana genre and instantly transcended it, because no one could write both so personally, it seemed, and with such talent for reaching inside fans’ own souls. I remember when I first got Car Wheels” ,Every evening I’d listen, making dinner, my solitary thoughts filtered through Willliams’s voice like the twilight through my row house’s back window.

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Williams’s testimonies to survival despite hard living and lost opportunities, and her elegies for absent friends and lovers, connect her to the blues, the form for which she first fell. From country music she learned the practice of turning glimpses of the private — a pot of coffee bubbling, the lines at the edges of a beloved’s eyes — into metaphors through which life reveals itself. From rock she took freedom, an obsession with self-determination that defined her persona and her career-long practice of doing exactly what she wants, the demands of the marketplace be damned. She stirred up these influence within her own sound, also incorporating New Orleans rhythms and classic rock attitude, working with bands who could move within her greasy grooves. She favors hot guitar players as dialogue partners. Always, she keeps things real: her songs sound like what people wish they could say to each other, and only sometimes do.

“Car Wheels” was Williams’s fifth album. It’s just one apex in a career that’s unfolded more like an Appalachian ridgeline, with dazzling high points and dips into deep woods and hollows, than the flat roads of her native delta. To really understand Williams’s catalouge, start with “Car Wheels” and continue both backward and forward. It’s crucial to spend time with the peace-seeking laments of 1992’s “Sweet Old World”, the edgy sexiness of 2003’s “World Without Tears”, and the ever-rawer rock mantras that typify the sound she’s cultivating now, at 67. With the hindsight that recognizes the limits of musical categories, a dive into the Lucinda Williams catalouge reveals that she is as spiritually aligned with defiant originals like Patti Smith, or indie inheritors like Katie Crutchfield and Alynda Lee Segarra, as with her Americana peers. Most of all, Williams is a singular artist with a resolutely personal voice that feels, to many people, like home.

Here’s a playlist for people who already love Lucinda Williams and for those who want to know more about her.

“Car Wheels On a Gravel Road” from: Car Wheels on a Gravel Road (1998)
The title track of her album masterpiece, an impressionistic account of the fugitive childhood Williams’s academic father gave her, contains everything great about this songwriter: resonant details, a unique but relatable perspective, and deep feeling rising through everyday talk like humid summer steam.

“Passionate Kisses” from: Lucinda Williams (1988)
Mary Chapin Carpenter’s version won Williams a 1994 Grammy for best country song; her own showcases a drawl as redolent of Mick Jagger as To Kill a Mockingbird‘s Scout Finch.

“Sweet Old World” from: Sweet Old World (1992)
Every great songwriter has one ballad anyone would want played at their funeral; this is Williams’s, a melancholy ode to the human tenderness that makes life worth living, and accepting a loved one’s death so hard.

“Joy” from: Car Wheels on a Gravel Road (1998)
From Slidell, La. to West Memphis, Ark., Williams chases down the happiness a betrayer stole in one of her fiercest and most defiantly triumphant rockers.

“Essence” from: Essence (2001)
The 2001 album with this title track was sonically subdued and deeply sexy in tone, never moreso than on this pheromone daydream, the epitome of Williams’s erotic expressionism.

“Fruits of My Labor” from: World Without Tears (2003)
Williams turns the classic slow blues that’s so often inspired her into a nearly psychedelic reverie – like the Beatles’ Strawberry Fields meets an Anne Rice vampire novel – in this missive from a woman of means to the lover who knew her when.

“Are You Alright” from: West (2007)
Empathy for the lost and the marginalized runs through Williams’s songwriting, and this gentle secular hymn for someone who’s gone missing offers it in heartbreaking measure.

“Man Without a Soul” from: Good Souls Better Angels (2020)
Williams has evolved to become a powerful protest singer, and she’s never been so bold as in this Springsteenesque broadside directed at Donald Trump.

“Changed the Locks” from: Lucinda Williams (1988)
This barn burner, one of many Williams songs about claiming power in the face of abuse, is catnip for other rockers — Tom Petty, indie mainstays the Silos and Australian country maverick Kasey Chambers have all covered it.

“Side of the Road” from: Lucinda Williams (1988)
Another from her essentially flawless Rough Trade debut, this meditation on the need to spend time alone with one’s own imagination is an artist’s manifesto that informed Williams’ own career and which nourishes any creative soul who hears it.

“Something About What Happens When We Talk” from: Sweet Old World (1992)
The originality of Williams’s mind shines on this vulnerable ballad about the aphrodisiacal charge of meaningful conversation.

“2 Kool 2 Be 4-Gotten” from: Car Wheels on a Gravel Road (1998)
“Junebug vs. Hurricane”: Williams saw that phrase scrawled on a wall in a photograph from Birney Imes’s book Juke Joint and expanded it into a song about the glories of those rural makeshift bars. Since then, others have named memoirs, blogs and cocktails after it, and even had it tattooed onto their arms. Her language resonates.

“Get Right With God” from: Essence (2001)
Gospel music is a central, if underdiscussed, inspiration for Williams. Here she makes the connection clear in a driving account of faith’s relationship to audacity and risk. The song inspired one of her most astounding vocal performances.

“Unsuffer Me” from: West (2007)
Williams is a master of parataxis — the poetic technique of stringing short phrases together in what literary scholars call “iconic ordering” (think the biblical Beatitudes, or Bob Dylan’s “Like a Rolling Stone”). Here she uses an almost heavy-metal musical approach to serve it, her lyrics enacting a seduction that’s really a cry for spiritual release.

“If My Love Could Kill” from: Ghosts of Highway 20 (2016)
Though her songs encompass the full range of human emotions, Williams is often painted as a lady of sorrow — and indeed, she has always confronted grief unflinchingly. Never has that process been as personal as in this song mourning the loss to Alzheimer’s of her father and lifelong mentor, poet Miller Williams, set within a gorgeous, Spanish-tinged arrangement.

“Little Angel, Little Brother” from: This Sweet Old World (2017)
Williams reimagined 1992’s Sweet Old World through new recordings in 2017, the songs reinvigorated within new arrangements and by her more worn, still powerful vocals. A highlight is this achingly compassionate expression of love and loss, a song for anyone who’s cared about someone they can’t save.

“I Lost It” from: Happy Woman Blues (1980)
The original version of a song that became a fierce rocker on Car Wheels shows Williams’s foundational connection to Louisiana music, here embodied by a Cajun fiddle and a two-step beat.

“I Envy the Wind” from: Essence (2001)
So much of Williams’s work comes alive within very particular, deeply shaded worlds, but this is her secret pop classic: The lyric that imagines nature itself as a lover’s companion complements the song’s unchained melody to render it timeless. Elvis or Billie would have sung this song if they could have.

“Those Three Days” from: World Without Tears (2003)
Few writers of any kind can match Williams when it comes to brutal honesty about the violence of desire. This noirish, countryish confession assesses the scars a fling can leave in a vulnerable heart, and the rawness of Williams’s vocal is remarkably courageous.

“The Temporary Nature of Every Precious Thing” from: Down Where Spirit Meets the Bone (2014)
The first two lines of this slow gospel vamp sum up Williams’s philosophy and artistic motivation: “The temporary nature of any precious thing, that just makes it more precious.”

“Soldier’s Song” from: Blessed (2011)
Maybe her most chilling song, this spare story song traces a fighter’s last moments on the battlefield in counterpoint with the beautiful mundanity of his family’s daily activities back home.

“We’ve Come Too Far To Turn Around” from: Vanished Gardens (2018)
Facing pain, believing in joy, investing in survival: This transcendent collaboration with octogenarian saxophonist Charles Lloyd and his band the Marvels captures everything that makes Lucinda Williams an essential companion on life’s road.

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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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Multi-Grammy Award winner Lucinda Williams addresses a subject that affects millions with the release of her emotional new song, “Big Black Train”. The track appears on her highly anticipated new album Good Souls Better Angels, out April 24th via Highway 20/Thirty Tigers.

The song’s title works as a metaphor for depression, and Williams compassionately articulates some of the fears and feelings that engulf those who are affected by it.  Through lyrics such as, I can hear it comin’ from miles away, Last time through it took me far away, Didn’t know if I was ever comin’ back and the solemn plea, I don’t wanna get on board, Williams masterfully connects the emotional weight of the condition to the overwhelming power of the “Big Black Train”. “Good Souls Better Angels” finds the acclaimed singer/songwriter zeroing in on some of the human and socio-political issues of our day with bold, forthright commentary and an urgency like never before. Just listen to the unabashed “Man Without A Soul” or the empowering “You Can’t Rule Me” to get a sense of where Williams stands at this stage of her celebrated four-decade career. She remains as vital a musical force as ever.

Lucinda Williams’ new album Good Souls Better Angels comes out next month, and she’s shared another new single from it, the lovely, torchy “Big Black Train,” whose title she says is a metaphor for depression. Lucinda Williams will release her new LP Good Souls Better Angels on April 24th.

Highway 20 Records marketed and distributed by Thirty Tigers.

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“It turns out Lucinda Williams was just getting started when the veteran singer-songwriter rolled out ‘Man Without a Soul,’  That roiling, simmering track, the first new song she’d unveiled in four years, clearly took aim at the current White House occupant (“without dignity and grace,” among other failings), and with no apologies.

Lucinda Williams is out for blood and standing her ground on the surly country rocker “You Can’t Rule Me” which also tips its hat ever so slightly to The Beatles’ “Money Can’t Buy Me Love.” It’s off her upcoming album Good Souls Better Angels that’s out in April. Williams has now unleashed a second track from the album, and it’s even more ornery than its predecessor. “You Can’t Rule Me” is a straight-up blues-bar stomp; Williams’ voice has rarely sounded so beautifully ravaged, and her guitarist, Stuart Mathis, lets rip with slide-guitar solos that match the spittle in her voice.

“You Can’t Rule Me” from Lucinda Williams’ forthcoming album Good Souls Better Angels, available April 24th.

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You can only guess who that might be about,” Lucinda Williams said after a scorching performance of her new song “Man Without a Soul” aboard the fifth annual Outlaw Country Cruise last week. A droning, guitar-driven track, the song doesn’t mention its subject directly, but as Williams alluded, it’s impossible to not pin the lyrics to the impeached President Trump.

“You bring nothing good to this world, beyond a web of cheating and stealing/you hide behind your wall of lies, but it’s coming down/yeah, it’s coming down,” she sings in her idiosyncratic drawl, promising that the story, the presidency, or perhaps the life itself of the man in question won’t conclude in any positive way.

“How do you think this story ends? It’s not a matter of how, it’s just a matter of when,” she intones. “‘Cause it’s coming down/yeah, it’s coming down.”

“Man Without a Soul” announces Williams’ latest album, Good Souls Better Angels. Due April 24th via Highway 20/Thirty Tigers, the LP is the follow-up to 2017’s This Sweet Old World (a re-recorded version of Williams’ 1992 album Sweet Old World) and finds the Americana songwriter addressing an array of cultural and political issues, from social media persecution to a nonviable leader. Williams and her husband Tom Overby produced the album with Ray Kennedy, who engineered her 1998 breakout album Car Wheels on a Gravel Road.

“Ray was getting these great sounds. He has all this vintage equipment,” Williams told Rolling Stone of the Nashville sessions for the album last year. “It really rocks … a lot of stuff that is blues-rocky, edgy, grungy, and political.”

The first single off Good Souls Better Angels is “Man Without a Soul,”  In fact, it’s an undeniable rock record, shot through with elements of the blues and the crunchy guitar work of Stuart Mathis. Drummer Butch Norton and bassist David Sutton, who make up Williams’ band Buick 6 with Mathis, also play on the album.

During the Outlaw Country Cruise, Williams played two full concerts, peppering her sets with new songs off Good Souls Better Angels and staples like 1989’s “Changed the Locks” and Car Wheels‘ “Joy,” along with the brooding “West Memphis,” from 2014’s Down Where the Spirit Meets the Bone. She also shared the stage with Steve Earle, Raul Malo, and Jay Farrar for an intimate guitar pull that will be broadcast later on Sirius XM’s Outlaw Country.

Williams is currently on the road and will play a string of dates in Florida this week with Jesse Malin opening. Williams and Overby produced Malin’s latest album Sunset Kids.

Lucinda Williams will release her new album ‘Good Souls Better Angels’ on April 24th.