Lucinda Williams doesn’t lose her edge
Now happily married, she still tackles dark subjects
Friday, July 1, 2011
If you go
What: Lucinda Williams, in concert.
When: 9 p.m. July 2.
Where: Safeway Waterfront Blues Festival, Tom McCall Waterfront Park, Portland.
Cost: $10 suggested donation, two cans of food. $40-$75 festival passes through Tickets Oregon, 503-432-9477 or ticketsoregon.com.
Lucinda Williams named her new album “Blessed,” but don’t let the title fool you. Sure, she’s finally found domestic bliss, but Lucinda Williams still has her edge.
She starts the album with a vicious kiss-off, “Buttercup,” then moves into “I Don’t Know How You’re Livin’,” about her troubled brother. The third track, “Copenhagen,” begins with the line, “Thundering news hits me like a snowball striking my face and shattering.”
“I wrote that about my late manager, Frank Callari, who died suddenly when we were touring over in Europe,” said Williams, 58.
Clearly, she hasn’t lost her talent for using vivid lyrics to express pain.
“I don’t sit down and think of a theme before I go in to write,” she said. “It’s whatever’s goin’ on in my life at that time. Unfortunately, there’s sad stuff that goes on. I mean, that’s why I’m an artist to begin with. It’s like writing a journal for me or something; I just have to get it out of my system.”
thoughts of mortality
Another song, “Seeing Black,” was inspired by her friend Vic Chesnutt’s suicide; he died on Christmas Day of 2009. Its opening verse:
How did you come up with the date and time?
You didn’t tell me you changed your mind.
How could I have been so blind?
I didn’t know you changed your mind.
Thoughts of mortality permeate “Blessed.” Even the closing love song, “Kiss Like Your Kiss,” contains finality in its words, as she recounts the special nature of each passing season. (The song also appears on the Grammy-nominated album, “True Blood: Music from the HBO Original Series — Volume 2.”)
“Blessed” is a departure in one respect: except for the incendiary Elvis Costello guitar solo on “Seeing Black,” there’s no barn-burner cut, no “Get Right With God” or “Joy.” It wasn’t intentional, she says. Just happened that way.
“I just go where the song wants to go,” Williams said. But despite its lack of rockers, her album still has an intensity about it.
“It kind of reminded me of a Jim Morrison vibe, almost, with some of (the songs),” she said. “‘The Awakening’ sort of reminds me of ‘This Is the End.’”
Morrison, of course, thought of himself as a poet. Williams has the same gene; her father is renowned poet Miller Williams. But she said writing lyrics is different than writing poetry; every time she tries to pen a poem and shows it to her dad, “He says, ‘Honey, I think it wants to be a song.’”
They have shared a few evenings of poetry and song, however, and he wrote the vows for her 2009 wedding to music executive Tom Overby.
By then, Overby, who had retail and record-label experience in marketing and A&R, had “passed the test” with two longtime Lucinda associates: her booking agent, Frank Riley, and lawyer, Rosemary Carroll — earning their blessings as both management and husband material.
Williams admits they occasionally butt heads, just like any married couple.
“You work through it,” she said.
And then you count your blessings. And maybe put them in a song.