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Lucinda Williams

The object of cultish adoration for years, singer/songwriter Lucinda Williams was universally hailed as a major talent by both critics and fellow musicians, but it took quite some time for her to parlay that respect into a measure of attention from the general public. Part of the reason was her legendary perfectionism: Williams released records only infrequently, often taking years to hone both the material and the recordings thereof. Plus, her early catalog was issued on smaller labels that agreed to her insistence on creative control but didn't have the resources or staying power to fully promote her music. Yet her meticulous attention to detail and staunch adherence to her own vision were exactly what helped build her reputation. When Williams was at her best (and she often was), even her simplest songs were rich in literary detail, from her poetic imagery to her flawed, conflicted characters. Her singing voice, whose limitations she readily acknowledged, nonetheless developed into an evocative instrument that seemed entirely appropriate to her material. So if some critics described Williams as "the female Bob Dylan," they may have been oversimplifying things (Townes Van Zandt might be more apt), but the parallels were certainly too strong to ignore.

Williams was born in Lake Charles, Louisiana, on January 26, 1953. Her father was Miller Williams, a literature professor and published poet who passed on not only his love of language, but also of Delta blues and Hank Williams. The family moved frequently, as Miller took teaching posts at colleges around Louisiana, Mississippi, Georgia, Arkansas, and even Mexico City and Santiago, Chile. Meanwhile, Lucinda discovered folk music (especially Joan Baez) through her mother and was galvanized into trying her own hand at singing and writing songs after hearing Dylan's Highway 61 Revisited. Immersed in a college environment, she was also exposed to '60s rock and more challenging singer/songwriters like Leonard Cohen and Joni Mitchell. She started performing folk songs publicly in New Orleans and during the family's sojourn in Mexico City. In 1969, she was ejected from high school for refusing to say the Pledge of Allegiance, and she spent a year working her way through a reading list supplied by her father before leaving home.

Williams performed around New Orleans as a folk artist who mixed covers with traditional-styled originals. In 1974, she relocated to Austin, Texas, and became part of that city's burgeoning roots music scene; she later split time between Austin and Houston, and then moved to New York. A demo tape got her the chance to record for the Smithsonian's Folkways label, and she went to Jackson, Mississippi, to lay down her first album at the Malaco studios. Ramblin' on My Mind (later retitled simply Ramblin') was released in 1979 and featured a selection of traditional blues, country, folk, and Cajun songs. Williams returned to Houston to record the follow-up, 1980's Happy Woman Blues. As her first album of original compositions, it was an important step forward, and although it was much more bound by the dictates of tradition than her genre-hopping later work, her talent was already in evidence.

However, it would be some time before that talent was fully realized. Williams flitted between Austin and Houston during the early '80s, then moved to Los Angeles in 1984, where she started to attract some major-label interest. CBS signed her to a development deal in the mid-'80s but wound up passing since neither its rock nor its country divisions knew how to market her; around the same time, a short-lived marriage to drummer Greg Sowders dissolved. Williams eventually caught on with an unlikely partner -- the British indie label Rough Trade, which was historically better known for its punk output. The simply titled Lucinda Williams was released in 1988, and although it didn't make any waves in the mainstream, it received glowing reviews from those who did hear it. With help from guitarist/co-producer Gurf Morlix, Williams' sound had evolved into a seamless blend of country, blues, folk, and rock; while it made perfect sense to roots music enthusiasts, it didn't fit into the rigid tastes of radio programmers. But it was clear that she had found her songwriting voice -- the album brimmed with confidence, and so did its assertive female characters, who seemed to answer only to their own passions.

Many critics hailed Lucinda Williams as a major statement by a major new talent. Rough Trade issued a couple of EPs that featured live performances and material from Lucinda Williams, and Patty Loveless covered "The Night's Too Long" for a Top 20 country hit. However, it would be four years before Williams completed her official follow-up. She signed with RCA for a time but left when she felt that the label was pressuring her to release material she didn't deem ready for public consumption. Instead, she went to the small Elektra-distributed label Chameleon, which finally released Sweet Old World in 1992. A folkier outing than Lucinda Williams, Sweet Old World was an unflinching meditation on death, loss, and regret. Even its upbeat moments were colored by songs like the title track and "Pineola," two stunning, heartbreaking accounts of a family friend's suicide (poet Frank Stanford, not, as many listeners assumed, Williams' own brother). Needless to say, the record won rave reviews once again, and Williams toured Australia with Rosanne Cash and Mary Chapin Carpenter.

On that tour, Carpenter decided to record "Passionate Kisses," the key track and statement of purpose from Lucinda Williams. It shot into the country Top Five in 1993 and won its writer a Grammy for Country Song of the Year. Other artists soon started mining Williams' back catalog for material: avowed fan Emmylou Harris recorded "Crescent City" on 1993's Cowgirl's Prayer and cut "Sweet Old World" for her 1995 alternative country landmark Wrecking Ball; plus, Tom Petty covered "Changed the Locks" for 1996's movie-related She's the One. As the buzz around Williams grew, so did anticipation for her next album. With Chameleon having gone under, she signed with Rick Rubin's American Recordings label and began sessions with Morlix again co-producing. Dissatisfied with the results, Williams' rigorous retouchings led to Morlix's departure from the project and her backing band. In 1995, she moved into Harris' neighborhood in Nashville and through Harris hired Steve Earle and his production partner Ray Kennedy. At first, she was so enamored with their work that she re-recorded the entire album from scratch. When it was finished, she decided that the results sounded too produced, and took the record to Los Angeles, where she enlisted Roy Bittan (onetime E Street Band keyboardist) to co-produce a series of overdub sessions that bordered on obsessive. During the long wait for the album, the media began to pay more attention to Williams; some of the coverage was fairly unflattering, painting her as a neurotic control freak, but she always countered that it was unfair to criticize the process if the results were worthwhile.

Rubin mixed the final tracks, but the album was further delayed when he entered into negotiations to sell the American label. Mercury stepped in to purchase the rights to the album, which was finally released in 1998 under the title Car Wheels on a Gravel Road. Boasting a bright, contemporary roots rock sound with strong country and blues flavors, not to mention major-label promotional power, the album won universal acclaim, making many critics' year-end Top Ten lists and winning The Village Voice's prestigious Pazz & Jop survey. It also won Williams a Grammy for Best Contemporary Folk Album (despite being the least folk-oriented record in her catalog) and became her first to go gold, proving to doubters that she was not just a songwriter, but a full-fledged recording artist in her own right. After a merger shakeup at Mercury, Williams wound up on the Universal-distributed roots imprint Lost Highway. She was the subject of an extensive, widely acclaimed profile in The New Yorker in 2000, written by Bill Buford, who was nominated for a National Magazine Award for his work; however, Williams and some of her supporters took issue with some of his more objective-minded analysis.

Williams delivered her next album, Essence, in 2001, after a relatively scant wait of just three years. An introspective collection, it often found Williams taking a simpler, more minimalistic lyrical approach and was greeted with rapturous reviews in most quarters. The track "Get Right with God" won Williams her third Grammy, this time for Best Female Rock Vocal, which further consolidated her credibility as a singer, not just a songwriter. Paring down the time between album releases even further, Williams returned in 2003 with World Without Tears, which became her highest-charting effort to date when it debuted in the Top 20. Two live recordings were released in 2005, one (Live @ the Fillmore) for Lost Highway and the other (Live from Austin, TX) for New West. West arrived in 2007, followed by Little Honey in 2008. Williams returned to the studio in 2010 with producer Don Was at the helm with help from Eric Liljestrand and husband/manager Tom Overby (the latter two co-produced Little Honey), with some of the same guests from the previous offering including Matthew Sweet and Elvis Costello, who sang and played on almost half the record. (Costello and Williams had already worked together; she duetted with Costello on his 2004 album The Delivery Man.) Entitled Blessed, the album was released in early 2011 in two editions, one as a standard CD and the other as a limited deluxe version with a bonus disc that included the working demos for the songs on Blessed, recorded in Williams' kitchen.

In early 2014, Williams reissued her 1988 self-titled album with bonus material via funding from a PledgeMusic campaign. If the crowdfunding campaign suggested Williams was moving away from the standard music business paradigm, she confirmed it by forming her own record label, Highway 20 Records, which released Down Where the Spirit Meets the Bone, an ambitious two-disc set that appeared in September 2014. Apparently inspired by her new independence, Williams released another double album, The Ghosts of Highway 20, through her own label in February 2016, only a year and a half after Down Where the Spirit Meets the Bone. ~ Steve Huey
full bio

Selected Discography


Track List: The Ghosts Of Highway 20

1. Dust

2. House Of Earth

3. I Know All About It

4. Place In My Heart

5. Death Came

6. Doors Of Heaven

7. Louisiana Story

8. The Ghosts Of Highway 20

9. Bitter Memory

10. Factory


Track List: Place in My Heart

1. Place in My Heart


Track List: Dust

1. Dust


Track List: Down Where The Spirit Meets The Bone

Disc 1

1. Compassion

2. Protection

3. Burning Bridges

4. East Side Of Town

5. West Memphis

6. Cold Day In Hell

7. Foolishness

8. Wrong Number

9. Stand Right By Each Other

10. It's Gonna Rain

Disc 2

1. Something Wicked This Way Comes

2. Big Mess

3. When I Look At The World

4. Walk On

5. Temporary Nature (Of Any Precious Thing)

6. Everything But The Truth

7. This Old Heartache

8. Stowaway In Your Heart

9. One More Day

10. Magnolia


Track List: Blessed

Disc 1

1. Buttercup

2. I Don't Know How You're Livin'

3. Copenhagen

4. Born To Be Loved

5. Seeing Black

6. Soldier's Song

7. Blessed

8. Sweet Love

9. Ugly Truth

10. Convince Me

11. Awakening

12. Kiss Like Your Kiss

Disc 2

1. Buttercup (Kitchen Tapes Version)

2. I Don't Know How You're Livin' (Kitchen Tapes Version)

3. Copenhagen (Kitchen Tapes Version)

4. Born To Be Loved (Kitchen Tapes Version)

5. Seeing Black (Kitchen Tapes Version)

6. Soldier's Song (Kitchen Tapes Version)

7. Blessed (Kitchen Tapes Version)

8. Sweet Love (Kitchen Tapes Version)

9. Ugly Truth (Kitchen Tapes Version)

10. Convince Me (Kitchen Tapes Version)

11. Awakening (Kitchen Tapes Version)

12. Kiss Like Your Kiss (Kitchen Tapes Version)


Track List: Buttercup (Radio Single)

1. Buttercup


Track List: Little Honey

1. Real Love

2. Circles And X's

3. Tears Of Joy

4. Little Rock Star

5. Honey Bee

6. Well Well Well

7. If Wishes Were Horses

8. Jailhouse Tears

9. Knowing

10. Heaven Blues

11. Rarity

12. Plan To Marry

13. It's A Long Way To The Top


Track List: Lu In '08 EP

1. For What It's Worth (Live In Greensboro, NC)

2. Masters Of War (Live In Greensboro, NC)

3. Marching The Hate Machines (Live In Greensboro, NC)

4. Bone Of Contention (Live In Milwaukee, WI)


Track List: West

1. Are You Alright?

2. Mama You Sweet

3. Learning How To Live

4. Fancy Funeral

5. Unsuffer Me

6. Everything Has Changed

7. Come On

8. Where Is My Love?

9. Rescue

10. What If

11. Wrap My Head Around That

12. Words

13. West


Track List: Live @ The Fillmore

Disc 1

1. Ventura (Live)

2. Reason To Cry (Live)

3. Fruits Of My Labor (Live)

4. Out Of Touch (Live)

5. Sweet Side (Live)

6. Lonely Girls (Live)

7. Overtime (Live)

8. Blue (Live)

9. Changed The Locks (Live)

10. Atonement (Live)

Disc 2

1. I Lost It (Live)

2. Pineola (Live)

3. Righteously (Live)

4. Joy (Live)

5. Essence (Live)

6. Real Live Bleeding Fingers And Broken Guitar Strings (Live)

7. Are You Down (Live)

8. Those Three Days (Live)

9. American Dream (Live)

10. World Without Tears (Live)

11. Bus To Baton Rouge (Live)

12. Words Fell (Live)


Track List: Live @ The Fillmore Exclusive EP

1. Passionate Kisses (Live (2003/The Fillmore, San Francisco))

2. I Just Wanted To See You So Bad (Live (2003/The Fillmore, San Francisco))

3. Still I Long For Your Kiss (Live (2003/The Fillmore, San Francisco))

4. Metal Firecracker (Live (2003/The Fillmore, San Francisco))


Track List: World Without Tears

1. Fruits Of My Labor

2. Righteously

3. Ventura

4. Real Live Bleeding Fingers And Broken Guitar Strings

5. Over Time

6. Those Three Days

7. Atonement

8. Sweet Side

9. Minneapolis

10. People Talkin'

11. American Dream

12. World Without Tears

13. Words Fell


Track List: Essence

1. Lonely Girls

2. Steal Your Love

3. I Envy The Wind

4. Blue

5. Out Of Touch

6. Are You Down

7. Essence

8. Reason To Cry

9. Get Right With God

10. Bus To Baton Rouge

11. Broken Butterflies


Track List: Car Wheels On A Gravel Road

1. Right In Time

2. Car Wheels On A Gravel Road

3. 2 Kool 2 Be 4-Gotten

4. Drunken Angel

5. Concrete And Barbed Wire

6. Lake Charles

7. Can't Let Go

8. I Lost It

9. Metal Firecracker

10. Greenville

11. Still I Long For Your Kiss

12. Joy

13. Jackson


Track List: Sweet Old World

1. Six Blocks Away

2. Something About What Happens When We Talk

3. He Never Got Enough Love

4. Sweet Old World

5. Little Angel, Little Brother

6. Pineola

7. Lines Around Your Eyes

8. Prove My Love

9. Sidewalks Of The City

10. Memphis Pearl

11. Hot Blood

12. Which Will


Track List: Lucinda Williams

1. I Just Wanted to See You So Bad

2. The Night's Too Long

3. Abandoned

4. Big Red Sun Blues

5. Like a Rose

6. Changed the Locks

7. Passionate Kisses

8. Am I Too Blue

9. Crescent City

10. Side Of The Road

11. Price To Pay

12. I Asked For Water (He Gave Me Gasoline)


Track List: Happy Woman Blues

1. Lafayette

2. I Lost It

3. Maria

4. Happy Woman Blues

5. King Of Hearts

6. Rolling Along

7. One Night Stand

8. Howlin' At Midnight

9. Hard Road

10. Louisiana Man

11. Sharp Cutting Wings (Song To A Poet)


Track List: Ramblin'

1. Ramblin' On My Mind

2. Me And My Chauffeur

3. Motherless Children

4. Malted Milk Blues

5. Disgusted

6. Jug Band Music

7. Stop Breakin' Down

8. Drop Down Daddy

9. Little Darling Pal Of Mine

10. Make Me Down A Pallet On Your Floor

11. Jambalaya (On The Bayou)

12. Great Speckled Bird

13. You're Gonna Need That Pure Religion

14. Satisfied Mind


Track List: Are You Alright?

1. Are You Alright?


Track List: Burning Bridges (Single)

1. Burning Bridges


Track List: Words (Alternate Version) (Single)


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fontanarama2 0 1 3
sheldontinsl e y : I couldn't agree more. The greats among us are great because they take us to special places, places we wouldn't otherwise get a glimpse of. Hate to pander, Pandora, but you guys are critical to my happiness at this point...
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her and Janis would have gotten well together....
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Singer songwriters songwriter,t i m e l e s s comes to mind and very few have that extra bit
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God bless Lucinda Williams and Pandora
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Purchased that newest CD. I'm sorry to say but it sounded like drunks doing a sound check.
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I heard her name for years and years thought she was a country artist. Being I am not a big fan of country I never listened to her. Last year I went to a festival where she closed the show, she was amazing! I had no idea just how great she was. I am a big fan now :) LOVE HER!
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Can't wait to see Lu at Rhythm and Roots this year!
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Goddamn I love this woman.

And Arrowdave you're not necessarily wrong in your assessment (after all she does have an album called Car Wheels on a Gravel Road). The difference is people who love her like that her voice sounds like this. Others may not, but that's their (your) loss.
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She is freakin amazing. Truly bares her soul on every song. Looking forward to finally seeing her August 2016 at the Jersey Shore.
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Maybe we'll take this last ride together, please. Nothing I would want more.
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Than you would know nothing, for the love I know, my words "we make this up"
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What is bobshitonits problem? Spends his depressing time trolling through Pandora to annoy the s**t out actual lovers of music. Pretty miserable waste of a life. Here dbradfor, take this noosed-up rope and tie it real tight! I'll kick the chair.
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good 1 dbra

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Not my fave
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Poor Bobbingupand d o w n o n i t . It's a real shame that you were concussed so often you can't appreciate good music anymore.
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Annoying me. Thumbs down
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God bless Miss w a y s loved her music. Amen.
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I love. Lucinda
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fontanarama2 0 1 3
I had a lover, I thought s/he was mine...
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fontanarama2 0 1 3
...too cool to be forgotten/Ju n e bug versus hurricane...
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fontanarama2 0 1 3
Highly recommended for those feeling soulful... Genuine article in an era of poseurs.
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she writes and sings just perfectly
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I love your voice , heart and soul . your beautiful lucinda i love you !
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excellent lyrics, heartfelt delivery
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Absolutely a fabulous singer!
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She's Awesome... My favorite singer.... ��
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fontanarama2 0 1 3
Lucinda's plaintive voice always warms my heart.
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Awesome !!
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Just returned from my daily walk. Along my trail ONE LONE PURPLE FLOWER!!!!No purple flowers along my walking trail!!!!!!
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Purple flowers
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Where is My Love by Lucinda. Listen
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Fruits of my Labor...some parts spot on
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Lucinda is phenomenal! Especially with Gurf Morlix!
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fontanarama2 0 1 3
It's more than just the voice, though the voice is without equal in this world... it's the soul. There's no doubt that she's been there... to that worst place you ever found yourself, and made her way home in the end. Now through her music, she's left a trail for you to follow...
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you are my favorite song writer. i cover your stuff and love it when my band is cool with preforming it. i would love to spend time with you some day��
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You are very good. I enjoy your music. Can't get more on point than that.
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Lucinda has become a constant companion... I ' m 73 loving this new-to-me artist.
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jennings.lau r a 3 4
Lovely and raw. Excellent!
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I feel your pain Lucinda, And love it !!!!!
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Dear Heart, Lucinda, please please marry me, but don't write about me.
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cool song
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Hank move it over
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God I really love Lucinda...
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One of the very best!
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love her voice!
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Happy B Day, Lucinda!
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Gotta hear me some lucinda every day!
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