Rock Through the Ages: Lucinda Williams 1953-

"I was just making a statement about how far people will go to their faith . . . like sleeping on a bed of nails or snake handling. Those kinds of things show how deeply people believe in God. So to me, this record is like religious folk art. It's kind of my statement.”- Lucinda Williams

Lucinda Williams, Theres something about what happens when we talkLucinda Williams began her career interpreting country, folk, and blues standards with a cool, almost academic reverence for the music. Lucinda Williams is an American rock, folk, and country music singer and songwriter. The object of cultish adoration for years, 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.

Lucinda Williams was born on January 26, 1953 in Lake Charles, Louisiana. William's father was award-winning poet and English professor, Miller Williams, who read at President Clinton's second Inauguration. Her mother Lucille was a concert pianist. In other words, Lucinda is both literally and figuratively the result of music meeting poetry. Her parents divorced when she was eleven and, in the custody of their father, the Williams children, including younger siblings Robert and Karyn, moved often, living in a total of nine different cities. What Miller Williams felt he lacked for his children in stability, he made up for with the nature of the creative and stimulating environment he provided for them. Williams was inspired by a host of her father's friends, including writers James Dickey, Allen Ginsberg, Charles Bukowski and Flannery O'Connor. Lucinda Williams picked up the guitar at age 12 and decided on a musical future early on. 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 Bob Dylans Highway 61 Revisited. At 16, Lucinda Williams discovered the writing of Southern novelist Flannery O’Connor, whom she cites as a major influence on her songwriting. Lucinda Williams began writing songs when she was a young child, and made her debut in Mexico City when she was 17,as part a duo with her friend, a banjo player named Clark Jones. Lucinda Williams attended college for a short time but dropped out in 1971 to devote herself to music.

Lucinda Williams performed around New Orleans as a folk artist who mixed covers with traditional-styled originals. In 1974, she relocated to Austin, TX, and became part of that city's burgeoning roots music scene. After signing a one-page deal for $250 and spending one day at Malico Studios in Jackson, Mississippi, Williams released her debut album on the Folkways record label in 1979, called Ramblin' On My Mind . It was a collection of country and blues covers. She followed it up in 1980 with Happy Woman Blues, which consisted of her own material. Neither album received much attention. In the 1980s, Williams moved to Los Angeles, California, and then to Nashville, Tennessee. Performing with a rock band and in acoustic settings, Lucinda Williams  soon developed a following and a critical reputation. While based in Los Angeles, Lucinda Williams was briefly married to Long Ryders drummer Greg Sowders.

Lucinda Williams, Car WheelsLucinda 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 contained the now-classic song "Passionate Kisses." With help from guitarist/co-producer Gurf Morlix, Williams' sound had evolved into a seamless blend of country, blues, folk, and rock. While the sound made perfect sense to roots music enthusiasts, it didn't fit into the rigid tastes of radio programmers. 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. Lucinda Williams was a hot commodity in the music biz, and again the labels came knocking. No matter what they offered, Williams rejected every offer that didn't put her in control of her career and her music. It would be four years before Lucinda Williams completed her official follow-up. Eventually another independent label, this time Chameleon, would be in charge of releasing her record. 1992's Sweet Old World was another collection of beautiful songs that lived up to everyone's expectations. It also endeared Lucinda Williams to her fans forever, since she rejected fame and fortune to preserve the essence of her music.

In 1993, Mary Chapin Carpenter recorded Lucinda's "Passionate Kisses" on Carpenter's multi-platinum country album, Come On, Come On. The immense exposure won Williams her first Grammy, for songwriting. Williams had more trouble finding and sticking with a label than a critically acclaimed artist should. The problem was always that no label could pigeonhole her sound. It was the same problem she'd had before, everyone liked her style but no one could figure out what to do with it. Williams also gained a reputation as a perfectionist and slow worker when it came to recording; six years would pass before her next album release, though she appeared as a guest on other artists' albums and contributed to several tribute compilations during this period. Car Wheels on a Gravel Road,  was released in 1998 and landed itself on the list of top ten albums of the year in magazines like Spin, The Village Voice, and Rolling Stone. It was a big commercial success and landed Lucinda her second Grammy award, this time for Best Contemporary Folk Album. Fame was firmly in her grasp, and Lucinda had done it all on her own terms. When the time came for Williams to record a new album, she stuck with the independent labels and signed to Lost Highway. More than happy to have such an established artist, the label sat back and offered their full support behind 2001's Essence.

Lucinda's seventh album, World Without Tears, was released in 2003. A musically adventurous though lyrically downbeat album, this release found Williams experimenting with talking blues stylings and electric blues. In 2006, Williams announced her engagement to former Best Buy music executive Tom Overby. Although she first told reporters the marriage would take place that year, she still describes Overby as her fiancÚ in 2008. Professionally, Overby became her manager in late 2007 after the death of her longtime manager Frank Callari. In 2007, Lucinda Williams released West, for which she wrote songs addressing her mother's death and a tumultuous relationship break-up. The next album from Lucinda Williams, titled "Little Honey" was released on October 14 in 2008. It includes 13 new songs, among them, "Real Love" and "Little Rock Star," the latter inspired by music celebrities in the press, like Pete Doherty and Amy Winehouse. "Little Honey" also includes a cover of AC/DC's "Long Way to the Top" and "Rarity," inspired by singer-songwriter Mia Doi Todd.
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Lucinda Williams
Musician
Rock n Roll and Blues singer and songwriter. Songs include: "Sweet Old World"  "Passionate Kisses."