Posts Tagged ‘Lucinda Williams’

Jesse Malin had a shit year in 2018. His father, former guitarist, and producer all died. So his new album Sunset Kids, his first in four years, could have been a major bummer. Instead, it’s a celebration of survival that finds the New York City hardcore troubadour reflecting on life’s precious and fleeting moments.

“Shining Down” is inspired by Tom Petty’s final performance at the Hollywood Bowl in 2017, which Malin witnessed firsthand. “I act like nothing hurts/The bar becomes a church/A limousine or hearse and you don’t look back,” he sings over jangly Heartbreakers guitars and a euphoric chorus. In “Strangers and Thieves,” he teams up with Green Day’s Billie Joe Armstrong to memorialize their punk glory days, delivering a blast of power pop that floats along on a curlicue guitar lick. And in “Shane,” Malin salutes the longevity of the hard-drinking Pogues singer Shane MacGowan, blending his nasally whine with that of Americana chanteuse Lucinda Williams.

It’s the presence of Williams, who co-produced the LP with her husband Tom Overby, that ties Sunset Kids together. A master lyricist, she helps Malin refine and focus his own words, especially on the introspective “Room 13” and on their duet “Dead On,” a slashing blues-rocker that evokes Williams’ own kiss-off “Changed the Locks.” The seemingly odd-couple pair — he’s from Queens, she was raised in Arkansas — slap their way through the verses. “You talk like an angel/You spit on the floor,” Williams growls, before Malin answers, “but you look just like the girl next door.”

There’s some repetition on the album, three of the 14 tracks, including “Revelations,” have appeared in various forms on past solo projects, but only fans who’ve followed Malin’s career closely will notice.

“Meet Me at the End of the World Again,” released as a one-off single in 2017, benefits from the redo. Elevated by Catherine Popper’s funky Lower East Side bass groove, it’s a soundtrack to the apocalypse, a command to reconnect before it’s too late, and makes you believe that the P.M.A. (positive mental attitude) that Malin has been preaching for decades just might be enough to save us.

Growing up in Queens, Jesse Malin was all of 10 when he made his first public appearance with a band, performing Kiss’ “Rock and Roll All Nite” at his public school—“I spit ketchup for blood,” he remembers with a laugh. He was a member of the Kiss Army in his teens but eventually graduated to punk, forming a band called Heart Attack—all of whose members were under 16—only to be told that punk had already peaked. “We went to an audition night at CBGB and they told us that we missed it all. Bad Brains had broken up, The Ramones were going power-pop, Blondie [was going] disco. They said, ‘Try something new like rockabilly or New Romantics.’ I said, ‘I’m not dressing up like a pirate.’”

He soon discovered that the genre wasn’t dead. It had simply sped up, grown more outspoken and morphed into hardcore, with bands like the Dead Kennedys, Black Flag and the Circle Jerks taking the music to the next level. Heart Attack stayed together for four years, after which Malin founded the band Hope, which carried on until 1989.

But it wasn’t until he joined D Generation that Malin truly became a force to be reckoned with. The band not only opened shows for Kiss but also those other Queens natives, The Ramones (Joey Ramone became a close friend). They released three full length albums, an EP and numerous singles during their initial eight-year run. It was while making their self-titled debut in 1994 that Malin first connected with Bianco, who produced and engineered it. (The second album, No Lunch, was produced by The Cars’ Ric Ocasek, and the third, Through the Darkness, was produced by David Bowie collaborator Tony Visconti.)

“We wanted to make D Generation into a band that we felt we missed; we felt music had become really safe and funky, with people dressed up like they were farmers from Seattle with no style. We wanted to be in a band that was like a gang,” Malin says. The band was respected but never did cut through commercially. “The people that liked us loved us, but we became more of a cult thing and an artist thing. We had a few bad breaks, but also internally it was so intense. It could be like a five-headed love affair or a five-headed war.”

Malin eventually started growing creatively restless. And punk was also moving in a direction he wasn’t entirely comfortable with. “People thought punk was about swastikas and fascism until the Dead Kennedys said, ‘Nazi punks fuck off.’ Sometimes people misunderstand things,” he says.

After the demise of D Generation, Malin cut an album with a band called Bellvue, To Be Somebody, before making the difficult decision to go the solo troubadour route. “It was kind of nervewracking to call it Jesse Malin,” he says. “I was used to hiding behind four other people and writing for four or five other people. But I think there’s a real connection between punk-rock and folk, from Woody Guthrie to The Clash to Bob Dylan to Crass or the Dead Kennedys. It’s about a message and a couple of chords and an attitude. A lot of my friends that heard me do louder stuff would be kind of surprised when I first did more acoustic-based music. I had people going, ‘What the hell?’ But my real friends knew that I had liked Jim Croce and Elton John since I was eight, and Neil Young and Bruce Springsteen since I was 15. I like songs, whatever they are—the craft.”

His highly regarded solo debut, 2002’s The Fine Art of Self Destruction, was produced by D Generation fan Ryan Adams, whom he’d met in 1996. “It was a very personal first record,” Malin says. He followed it with The Heat (2004) and thenGlitter in the Gutter, which featured a guest vocal by none other than Bruce Springsteen, who took note of Malin’s debut.

“I got into Bruce Springsteen late,” he says. “In the ‘80s, I got into Nebraska, and I was like, ‘This guy’s a millionaire and he’s speaking the truth. It’s real and it’s dark and it’s about people on the street, and it’s believable and it’s haunting and it’s so good. And it’s just him alone.’” Springsteen invited Malin to do some holiday shows with him and agreed to lend backing vocals to Malin’s track “Broken Radio.

From there, Malin’s next move was an all-covers set, On Your Sleeve, featuring favourite tunes by classic rockers like Lou Reed, The Clash, The Rolling Stones, Elton John and Paul Simon, and a live album, Mercury Retrograde. His next full studio album, Love It to Life, arrived in 2010; that same year, he and the members of Green Day killed time with a short-lived band they called Rodeo Queens, releasing one song, “Depression Times.” His five-year break between solo albums was alleviated when a reunited D Generation released their first new album in 17 years. That band also embarked on a well-received tour with stops in London and the U.S., among them a couple of shows opening for Guns N’ Roses. One observer of the tour was Lucinda Williams, who had never seen D Generation during their heyday.

“It was a whole different side of Jesse,” Williams says, “and he was amazing. He had his shirt off, like Iggy Pop, and his microphone cord was long enough that he was able to go all the way to the bar from the stage and drink a shot of tequila and still make it back to the stage. He was great.”

Now 51, Jesse Malin still lives in Manhattan’s East Village. “I tried living in Los Angeles but, if you walk in LA, they think you’re a male prostitute,” he says. These days, he can often be found, wearing his trademark suspenders and newsboy cap, at one of the bars or clubs he owns a stake in. “We try to keep a little bit of old New York, New York going somehow,” he says about the establishments, which include popular destinations like Bowery Electric, Lola, Niagara and Cabin Down Below. “Going back to Queens and Brooklyn and places that I tried desperately to get out of, it’s strange to me that there’s now art galleries and gluten-free donuts. But I like that stuff, too. I just love making music and talking about music, then having a few drinks and talking even more.”

As Sunset Kids (titled after a children’s shop in LA—he liked the name, which nodded to his recent losses and nocturnal nature) began making its way out to fans, Malin was looking beyond his own neighbourhood, though. “We’re going to do a lot of touring behind this record,” he says. “It’s a privilege to play live after you’ve worked on a record; it’s an exorcism for me to get up there each night over some dirty microphone and spit out whatever it is. So I’ll be doing a bunch of touring around the world—Europe and Japan and the States—and then another record. I want to do something pretty quiet next time and really keep it intimate. And then I want to do a very physical record— something that can be played live. I want to make something that I can move my body to and that’s just completely fun and rhythmic but still aggressive. That’s what I’m thinking now. In between, as Warren Zevon said, I just want to enjoy every sandwich.”

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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.

Next time you feel the need to reach for a ‘what-you-see-is-what-you-get does-exactly-what-is-says-on-the-tin’ record you could, in all honesty not do a lot better than Jesse Malin’s new album ‘Sunset Kids’. This is a great album of 14 hugely enjoyable songs.

Jesse Malin is assiduous in his collaborations here, balancing his alter-egos beautifully – letting his punk predilections run through with veins of classic rock and country. The record is produced by Lucinda Williams who co-writes and joins Malin on ‘Room 13’. The story goes that the idea of Williams producing the record started when she invited him to see her open for what turned out to be Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers’ final concert. The two share a love of Lou Reed and the Stones and goodness me have they channelled that here. Take the opening track ‘Meet Me At The End Of The World Again’, it saunters in on a rolling Bruce Hornsby piano figure before hefting a bullish vocal akin to Alabama 3 and ‘Woke up This Morning’, it then lifts to the kind of chorus that has brought Sheryl Crow a career of top 40 hits. It is magnificent earworm stuff that is hard to resist. So maybe it is a little unfair to describe these songs as an amalgam of other songs and artists, but in a world when very little is new there is a pleasure in appreciating how the tunes on this record are hewn from the rock of history with such a craftsman’s chiselling. Next up, the pace alters for ‘Room 13’, one of two Williams co-writes. It opens the door to a more country influence with reverb-soaked, shimmering guitar of the kind that made ‘Unknown Legend’ a classic. And those influences keep on bursting through and compounding the pleasure: ‘Promises’ is like a Stones/Young collaboration- imagine ‘Waiting On A Friend’ sung by Neil Young.

Jesse Malin’s official music video for “Shane (featuring Lucinda Williams)” from his new record Sunset Kids, available now on Wicked Cool Records.

Strangers and Thieves’ is co-written with, and, features a contribution by, Green Day’s Billie Joe Armstrong leveraging Malin’s punk past. The harmony of the punk/roots is evident on ‘Shane’ where the loop is deliciously closed. Malin and Williams offer a tender ballad to one of Malin’s heroes, the massively talented and conflicted Shane MacGowan of The Pogues. “They pulled you out of your hospital bed to take you down to the show” sings Malin and Williams reflecting on the cognitive demands we as an audience press on artists, but Shane is assured that “everybody sends their love”. Deep in the song is a reference to “Playing Death or Glory”, not a MacGowan song of course but, here is the thing, obsessive hoarders of free magazine CDs will remember that back in 2003 Uncut magazine put out two CDs of tributes to the Clash, and yes, on volume two there is Malin delivering a quite wonderful piano-based version of the very same song.

The in studio making of “Shane” from Jesse Malin’s new record “Sunset Kids”, available now on Wicked Cool Records.

Between these gems are yet more sparkling treasures –‘Chemical Heart’ deserves a mention for name-checking Bernie Taupin.  Malin fans will spot three songs, including ‘Revelations’ that have been aired before on other projects. No matter – they all fit together here into a triumph a record which must rank among the best of Malin’s career and among the best of this year. Check this one out for sure.

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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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His third solo album, 2007’s Glitter in the Gutter, saw singer-songwriter Jesse Malin pay tribute to a friend and fellow tunesmith with a song he called “Lucinda.” It took another dozen years, but Malin and that song’s inspiration, Lucinda Williams, have finally found the time to collaborate on a full-length project. Sunset Kids, Malin’s recently released album on Little Steven Van Zandt’s Wicked Cool label, was co-produced by Williams and her husband, Tom Overby, and it’s easily the most potent collection of Malin music since that earlier breakthrough set.

Sunset Kids arrives a full four years after New York Before the War and Outsiders, the pair of albums Malin released during a particularly prolific period in 2015, and three since Nothing Is Anywhere, his 2016 reunion effort with D Generation, the glam-punk band he co-founded in 1991. He hadn’t planned on taking this long to make a follow-up solo recording, but life, as it often does, had other plans for him. One after the other, Malin lost important people in his life, including his father, Paul; his West Coast engineer, David Bianco; former bandmate Todd Youth and others. “When you’re hit with all these heavy things, you either get beaten down or you find a way to jump back,” Malin says. He weathered the losses and chose the latter path.

“When there are hardships, I look to life and I look to music and say, ‘Let’s make the best of it and try to find a way to smile through it a little bit because there’s a lot of dark shit.’ It reminded me of when I made my first solo album and I came out of being in bands,” he adds. “As scary as it was, there was something liberating about it. This batch of songs started to pour out.”

Williams was an obvious choice as producer yet, at the same time, she wasn’t. Malin was born and raised in the New York City borough of Queens and quickly gravitated toward punk and, later, what’s now called Americana. Williams, more than a dozen years his senior, was born in Lake Charles, La., and grew up largely in Arkansas before embarking on a career that has landed her three Grammy wins and another dozen nominations.

Malin recalls first hearing Williams around 20 years ago on a duet she did with Steve Earle, and while neither of them quite remembers where or when they first met—it may have been at a Charlie Watts jazz concert at New York’s Blue Note—at some point, they came into each other’s orbit and a friendship ensued. As Malin began gathering songs for what would eventually become Sunset Kids, the notion of working together popped into his head.

“My manager would come to my house every couple of weeks and say, ‘What do you got?’ and we’d sit around my kitchen table,” he says. “Then, once he felt like we had a good amount of songs, he said, ‘Think about producers.’ That same week, Lucinda Williams had invited me to come out to LA to see her open for what turned out to be Tom Petty’s final concert at the Hollywood Bowl. I said to my manager, ‘What do you think of Lucinda Williams? She’s somebody I really admire and look up to, and it might be an interesting thing.’”

“It just felt real natural,” Williams says. “Tom [Overby] and I had been working in LA with David Bianco, at his studio, and Jesse really liked the sounds we were getting on my albums that I was doing with David. Jesse said, ‘Do you guys want to help me do my next album?’ We said, ‘Yeah, we’d love to.’ But it wasn’t like this out-of-the-blue thing; it happened organically.”

“As people, we’re different,” says Malin about Williams. “We come from such different places. We’ve met up on the road a lot and, if we are in the same town, we’ll go out and listen to music. And Tom is a really great guy. He’s a real fan and a deep listener of music and he had a lot of input in the record.”

Williams’ involvement wasn’t limited to sitting behind the board. She co-wrote two of the album’s key songs, the harmony-rich “Room 13” and the swampy rocker “Dead On,” and contributes vocals to those two as well as “Shane,” the album’s richest ballad. She also offered some sage advice on the lyrical content of the songs, which vary dramatically in style.

“He writes like crazy; he’s so prolific,” Williams says. “He would bring a song to me and have the melody and the structure of the song. He’d have a whole bunch of lyrics and a refrain. He brought ‘Room 13’ to me and said, ‘I’ve got all these lyrics. Can you help me go through and kind of narrow it down?’ So I asked him: ‘What are you trying to say in the song, exactly?’ I wanted to wrap my head around it and get inside of it. We’d go back and forth.”

“She’d be talking about this line or that line,” recalls Malin about the shaping of that same track, “and the next day, she took my six verses and said, ‘These are the three you should use.’ There’s something really open about sitting around with an acoustic guitar and a drink and just going through your stuff. But I was nervous. Even though she’s my friend, I was like, ‘Whoa, the body of work she has.’ But when you have somebody like that it makes you want to do better.”

Once they settled down to actually record, “There were different things going on in different studios,” says Williams. “He was still finishing songs and writing new songs as we were recording.” Most of the music was cut live in the studio, with some overdubbing. Several of Malin’s pals, including Green Day’s Billie Joe Armstrong and singer-songwriter Joseph Arthur, lent a hand with vocal or instrumental parts.

“With her instinct—from being around music or just having that kind of deep soul or some kind of Southern thing—we’d go in and record a song and do three takes,” says Malin. “We’d record to analog tape. Then we would listen and see if we nailed it, and if she was dancing and grooving her hips and moving, then we knew we had a take.” They recorded about 25 songs in all, with 14 finding their way on to the finished album.

“I know I was involved in the album, but Tom and I think this is the best album he’s made,” says Williams.

Jesse Malin’s official music video for “Room 13 (featuring Lucinda Williams)” from his new record “Sunset Kids”, available now on Wicked Cool Records.

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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.

Jesse Malin considers his video for the new track “Room 13” premiering exclusively below from his upcoming Lucinda Williams-produced album Sunset Kids, an impressionistic “little tribute” to some favorite films, including Midnight Cowboy and Paris, Texas.

Directed by Dito Montiel, a friend from the punk rock scene (Gutterboy, Major Conflict) turned filmmaker (A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints, Empire State, The Clapper), the clip also nods to Malin’s habit of booking himself into hotels to do some songwriting in isolation. The various character plots pay homage to those older films and feature cameos from friends such as Malin’s D Generation bandmate Howie Pyro, the Dickies’ Leonard Graves Phillips and more.

“It was just a great time to make a video in there with (Montiel) and his eye,” Malin says, “Hotels are a place I sometimes go to write in to get that blank canvas feeling. It’s just this empty space. We’re in such a world with distractions, your phone and computer and all the social media. Sometimes if you get far away, in another time zone, you’re in a place where you’re forced to deal with yourself, thinking about that matters in life, who you care about, what really sticks when there isn’t as much noise to deal with. That’s what I’m getting at there.”

“Room 13” is also special to Malin because it’s the first song he and Williams worked on for Sunset Kids, which is due out August. 30th. The two have been friends for years, since Malin’s days in D Generation, and while having dinner in Los Angeles during the summer of 2017 (after Williams opened for the late Tom Petty’s final concert at the Hollywood Bowl), they began talking about having her produce Malin’s next project.

“Then Tom Petty’s (death) happened, and then what happened in Las Vegas (the Route 91 Harvest Festival shootings), and there was a very heavy emotional kind of pause for everybody,” Malin recalls. He and Williams finally got together, with engineer David Bianco, the next February and began working on songs, knocking out “a handful” and continuing to write throughout 2018, negotiating their two schedules as they crafted the 15-track album. “She has a real fearlessness and attention to detail — just a combination of hard work and gut instinct,” Malin says of Williams. “She’s very free, and I think there’s something to that, but yet really worked hard on the writing and crafting of the songs. Every time I’d see her I would have a couple new songs, and if they hit her she’d go with her instinct. ‘Listen to your heart’ was something I got from her, don’t be so over-analytical. We’d do three takes of a song and then go into the control room and see if we nailed it, and it was like, if she was moving her hips to it, that was the one we went with.”

Green Day’s Billie Joe Armstrong, another old friend, co-wrote and sings on the Sunset Kids‘ track “Strangers and Thieves,” while Joseph Arthur appears on three tracks. Malin will be doing some dates this summer with Justin Townes Earle and with Arthur, while an album release show is slated for Sept. 14 at Webster Hall in New York City. And while Sunset Kids‘ title is a salutary reference to Petty and other artists and friends who have passed away while the album was being made, Malin says there’s also an implied salute to those who are still around.

“We all have people we look to, like Keith Richards — of all the people, this guy keeps going,” Malin says with a chuckle. “I sang at Shane MacGowan’s 60th birthday party thinking ‘Oh, this guy’s not going to make it,’ and he’s still here singing — and drinking. And from the hardcore scene…New York was a pretty tough place. A lot of us came from dysfunctional families that didn’t give you the tools to deal with pain and stuff. So when you see anybody who’s still here and made it through, that makes me happy.

Jesse Malin’s official music video for “Room 13 (featuring Lucinda Williams)” from his new record Sunset Kids, available August 30th on Wicked Cool Records.

Lucinda Williams recently sat down with Jessie Scott to talk about the 20th anniversary of her groundbreaking album ‘Car Wheels On A Gravel Road’. Williams is touring with her band in celebration of the 20 years of the songs like “Jackson” and “Drunken Angel” which she played and recorded for a session at Colin Linden’s Nashville studio.

It was her fifth studio album by the singer-songwriter Lucinda Williams. It was recorded and co-produced by Williams in Nashville, Tennessee and Canoga Park, California, before being released on June 30th, 1998, by Mercury Records. The album features guest appearances by Steve Earle and Emmylou Harris. It was Willams’ first album to go gold, She also won a Grammy Award for Best Contemporary Folk Album, and received a nomination for Best Female Rock Vocal Performance for the single “Can’t Let Go”.

Lucinda Williams makes this whole music thing seem so simple: Write in plain language about the people and places that crowd your memory; add subtle flavors of a mandolin here, a Dobro there, perhaps an accordion or slide guitar; above all, sing as honestly and naturally as you can. Of course, it took her six years to achieve this simplicity, an amazing achievement considering the number of knobs that were turned. Her exquisite voice moans and groans and slips and slides–she delivers a polished tone in a coarse manner. On the superb “Concrete and Barbed Wire”, soft acoustic guitars are punctuated by electric slide, accordion, mandolin, and Steve Earle’s harmony. Williams’s deeply personal stories are matched with bluesy rumbles, raunchy grooves, and plaintive whispers. The entire Deep South is reduced to a sleepy small town filled with ex-lovers, dive bars, and endless gravel roads.

Williams’s evocations of rural rootlessness–about juke joints, macho guitarists, alcoholic poets, loved ones locked away in prison, loved ones locked away even more irreparably in the past–are always engaging in themselves. And they mean even more as a whole, demonstrating not that old ways are best,

It isn’t surprising that Lucinda Williams‘ level of craft takes time to assemble, but the six-year wait between “Sweet Old World” and its 1998 follow-up, “Car Wheels on a Gravel Road”, still raised eyebrows. The delay stemmed both from label difficulties and Williams‘ meticulous perfectionism, the latter reportedly over a too-produced sound and her own vocals. Listening to the record, one can understand why both might have concerned Williams. Car Wheels is far and away her most produced album to date, which is something of a mixed blessing.

Its surfaces are clean and contemporary, with something in the timbres of the instruments (especially the drums) sounding extremely typical of a late-’90s major-label roots-rock album. While that might subtly alter the timeless qualities of Williams‘ writing, there’s also no denying that her sound is punchier and livelier. The production also throws Williams‘ idiosyncratic voice into sharp relief, to the point where it’s noticeably separate from the band. As a result, every inflection and slight tonal alteration is captured, and it would hardly be surprising if Williams did obsess over those small details. But whether or not you miss the earthiness of Car Wheels‘ predecessors, it’s ultimately the material that matters, and Williams‘ songwriting is as captivating as ever. Intentionally or not, the album’s common thread seems to be its strongly grounded sense of place — specifically, the Deep South, conveyed through images and numerous references to specific towns. Many songs are set, in some way, in the middle or aftermath of not-quite-resolved love affairs, as Williams meditates on the complexities of human passion.

The final version of Car Wheels on a Gravel Road was produced by E.Street Band Roy Bittan