Lucinda Williams originally came as a recommendation to me as a country artist. That always scares me, only because it seems that country music these days can mean so many things. Is it Hank Williams country? Garth Brooks country? You really don’t know.
After purchasing and listening to my first Lucinda record in 1998, Car Wheels on a Gravel Road, I came to a conclusion – she was neither (although, it leaned way more toward Hank, if I had to choose). Sure, songs like “Lake Charles” or “Concrete and Barbed Wire” did have traditional country influences, but the entire album didn’t come across to me as something that would trap her in a 6-string box or CMT marathon. It felt like a new sound, one that would likely stay in my listening rotation for years to come.
I know, I know…Williams did start out in a rush full of twang with her early releases. I’m talking about Ramblin’, Happy Woman Blues, and the self-titled Lucinda Williams. But let’s make no mistake about it: these days, the woman who Time Magazine once called the “America’s best songwriter,” can rock.
Just three weeks ago, after one of her perky concerts with her fabulous band, Buick 6, my ears felt the lasting ringing effects for a few days. Opening with “Real Love,” a rocking new track off her newest offering, Little Honey, and closing with a cover of AC/DC’s “It’s a Long Way To the Top,” you could hardly tell that this was the same woman who once wrote “Sweet Old World,” “Crescent City,” or “Side of the Road.” Instead, this was an ever-changing artist who had polished off her Delta Blues roots while also finding a friend in an electric guitar.
The truth is that she’s been doing this for a while. Since 2001, Williams has written a plethora of rock and blues songs like “Essence,” “Real Live Bleeding Fingers and Broken Guitar Strings,” “Righteously,” “Atonement,” “Come On,” and “Honey Bee.” And, like I already mentioned, she’s playing them live, too. Williams has found a voice, and it’s defiantly loud.
But what do I really love about her music? I love the way she can write a song like “Broken Butterflies” and make you think for weeks about what it means. I adore the way she can sing a song like “I Lost It” or “Those Three Days,” reaching from the bottom of her gut, and still sound like she’s moving on. I respect the way an older song like “Sharp Cutting Wings” sounds like it was written for tomorrow’s new day.
I love her because she’s not Hank Williams or Garth Brooks. She’s the one and only Louisiana-bred Lucinda Williams, no matter what album you choose to let rip.
She said it: