Williams looks to past, the future

Singer rereleases old work, offers new music in September



Lucinda Williams’ 2014 began in the past: She reissued her 25-year-old self-titled country-folk-rock breakthrough, the album with “Passionate Kisses,” “Changed the Locks” and “The Night’s Too Long,” telling reporters it was a “labor of love” with an $18,000 budget.

And it’ll end in the future: In September, she’ll release “Down Where the Spirit Meets the Bone,” a double album with “more soulful stuff” than usual.

“I surprised myself,” the veteran singer-songwriter said by phone from a tour stop in Harrisburg, Pa. “I was in a writing period, and I just kept coming up with more songs.”

What happened between 1980’s sparse and bluesy Smithsonian Folkways album “Happy Woman Blues” and 1988’s richer and more enduring “Lucinda Williams”?

Well, (on) the Folkways album, I spent most of that time in between Austin and Houston, Texas, just kind of honing my craft, and then in 1984, I moved to Los Angeles. A friend of mine had suggested I come out and set some gigs up for me, and I just ended up staying out there. I guess it was just a growth period.

You’ve said you learned a great deal from your dad, poet Miller Williams, about writing and editing. How so?

As soon as I was full-blown writing songs, he would give me constructive criticism. It was sort of an apprenticeship almost, without me realizing it at the time. Even as late as all of the songs on “Car Wheels,” I made sure he heard all of those songs before I recorded them, because I just looked up to him so much.

Can you give an example?

I’d already written “Drunken Angel.” You know that line in “Lake Charles,” where it says, “Did an angel whisper in your ear?” My dad said, “It’s not a good idea. You shouldn’t use the word angel, because you’ve already used it in “Drunken Angel.” I said, “There’s nothing else that’s going to fit there.” … He said, “OK, but you can’t use it again in any other songs.”

Do you still send him songs for critique?

No, not anymore. Well, on “Essence,” I still sent him all the songs before I recorded, and I said, “Dad, what do you think?” and he said, “I think it’s the closest thing to poetry you’ve ever done.” I said, “Does that mean I’ve graduated?” and he laughed and said, “Yes.” Isn’t that sweet?