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Lucinda Williams: A Legend in Her Own Sweet Time

Lucinda Williams, a singer-songwriter born in 1953 in Lake Charles, Louisiana, mixes elements of blues, folk and country music.

Her father, Miller, was a poet, literature professor, amateur pianist and fan of Hank Williams and delta blues. Williams began writing music at six years of age and, in her twenties, began moving around the country. She settled in Nashville.

The profiles say that she initially didn’t generate much attention. Talent overcomes (at least in most cases) and her reputation grew gradually through the 1980s. Other artists — particularly Emmy Lou Harris, Tom Petty and Mary Chapin Carpenter — were more attuned to her brilliance than the general public. The public gradually caught on.

Steve Huey’s profile of Lucinda Williams at AllMusic is worth reading. He paints a picture — one that is echoed elsewhere — of a slow worker and a perfectionist who for years straddled the line between general acceptance and cult status. He also writes that her voice is limited and that she worked with smaller labels that didn’t have the juice to make her a star but, presumably, gave her the latitude to do things the way she wanted them done.

Writes Huey:

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.

Here is Williams’ discography. Above is “Car Wheels on a Gravel Road,” which The Dallas Observer chose as the top Williams song. “Drunken Angel,” below, was number four. Williams, in the introduction to another version of the song at YouTube, said it is about the legendary Blaze Foley, a brilliant but unstable Austin songwriter. (Check out the stunning “Clay Pigeons.”)

The Dallas Observer, Discogs, Wikipedia and AllMusic were cited in this post. Home page photo: Kentucky County Day School)

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Also of Interest

Reading Music

The stories of the great bands and musicians are fascinating. Musicians as a group are brilliant, but often troubled. The combination of creativity and drama makes for great reading.

Here are some books to check out.

Duke Ellington brought class, sophistication and style to jazz which, until that point, was proudly unpolished and raucous. His story is profound. The author, Terry Teachout, also wrote "Pops," the acclaimed bio of Louis Armstrong. Click here or on the image.

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What else is there to say? Here is the story behind every song written by The Beatles. Click here or on the image.

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The Grateful Dead don't get enough credit for the profound nature of its lyrics. Many of the band's songs are driven by a deep and literate Americana ("I'm Uncle Sam/That's who I am/Been hidin' out/In a rock and roll band" and "Majordomo Billy Bojangles/Sit down and have a drink with me/What's this about Alabama/Keeps comin' back to me?").

David Dodd's exhaustive study tells the story, song by song. Click here or on the image.