:: Wednesday, September 07, 2005 ::

Musical chairs: Gulf Coast edition

Musical Chairs

This week, the Musical Chairs gang of music lovers decided to write about musicians from the Gulf Coast region affected by Hurricane Katrina. Since I don't know much about musicians from New Orleans, I decided to move further inland and write about Lucinda Williams, who is from Lake Charles, Louisiana.

Other Musical Chairs members are writing about:

  • Alex Chilton (Courtney)
  • Fats Domino (Not Your Typical Southern Belle)
  • New Orleans metal (Michele)
  • Harry Connick Jr. (Tesco)

    Lucinda Williams at SXSWLucinda Williams, the daughter of a Lake Chalres, Louisiana, professor, sounds more like the daughter of a sharecropper when she sings. Her hard voice, country-music sensibilities and poor-man's poetry remind me of another, more famous southern musician with that same common surname: Alabama native Hank Williams.

    Like Hank before her, Lucinda possesses a voice tinged with a beautiful world-weariness. Her music draws on a number of influences: the swampy, Cajun sounds of her native state, the country sound of the Delta Blues masters, and that honky-tonk feel of Hank Williams. These roots are exposed in her earliest recordings, especially 1979's Ramblin', a collection of blues and country classics. But over the years she's carved out her own niche in the folk-rock/alt-country genre. With her 1998 release, Car Wheels on a Gravel Road, Williams finally started getting broader recognition for her talents. Her 2003 release, World Without Tears, confirmed her as an alt-country/folk-rock star along the lines of Mary Chapin Carpenter.

    As a guitarist, Lucinda Williams is at her best when she mimics the bluesy sounds of the south. But her talent really shines as a songwriter. She writes with a power that is descriptive and understated. Whether she's writing about heartache ("Those Three Days"), politics ("American Dream") or another musician ("Drunken Angel," my favorite Lucinda Williams tune, which is a tribute to a little-known musician from the Austin scene, Blaze Foley, who was murdered in 1989), Williams hits the mark. Her guitar on "Drunken Angel," for example, is a simple three-chord progression. But her poetic lyrics capture telling detail in every line, and her delivery conveys the emotion of what it's like to feel the loss of one who has crossed over to "the other side":
    Some kind of savior singing the blues
    A derelict in your duct tape shoes
    Your orphan clothes and your long dark hair
    Looking like you didn't care
    Druken Angel
    Blood spilled out from the hole in your heart
    Over the strings of your guitar
    The worn down places in the wood
    That once made you feel so good
    Druken Angel

    Essential listening:

  • "Drunken Angel," from Car Wheels on a Gravel Road
  • "Joy," from Car Wheels on a Gravel Road
  • "Real Live Bleeding Fingers and Broken Guitar Strings," from World Without Tears

    , ,

    :: Andrew 06:26 + ::
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