Although Lucinda Williams is quite a bit twangier than my usual listening fare, her music is resilient, burnished, and strong. No precious “awwwww” lyrics, no Jesus Take The Wheel or Beaches of Cheyenne here, this is just solid backporch bluegrass country that always makes me feel a little bit fiercer when I listen to it.
Her 1998 album Car Wheels On A Gravel Road was her masterpiece, a Grammy-award winner for Best Contemporary Folk Album that needs to be listened to on the open road as the title would imply. It’s a thoughtful (but rollicking, and sometimes bitter) collection that traverses the grounds of loss, lust, and stories from a thousand little roadside bars across America.
Her best just got better recently with the re-release of Car Wheels On A Gravel Road as a remastered double disc with 3 previously unreleased songs added to the main album, and a second disc of live performances from WXPN Radio in Philly.
Thanks my pal Bruce from Some Velvet Blog (via Aquarium Drunkard), there’s a little info on that second set to share. Bruce says, “Here’s a cool back story. The live concert was from a WXPN summer festival that I booked back when Lu toured on that album. What happened was the A&R guy who did the re-issue wanted to do something cool and they were going through the vaults and found a box with these tapes in them and all the box said was Lucinda-WXPN. So, they threw it on, and it was this concert. There was no label, nothing. So the A&R guy asked around about WXPN which led to a call to me. We did the multi-track recording of the show, but never actually did anything and it sat on a shelf until I said they could go for it and use it.” Glad you did, Bruce. What a find.
Now, I have 4 of these double CDs to give away if you wanted to check out the re-release, or if you’ve never heard her but always meant to. To enter to win one, here’s the gauntlet:
Car Wheels On A Gravel Road is an album to be listened to on the highway, preferably a dusty one across a desert somewhere, with the windows down (and I would definitely recommend with no air conditioning). Leave a comment to tell me one song that you personally like to listen to out on the wide open road.
Winners for this one will be chosen at random from all coherent, contactable entrants.
Check out this jumpin’ blues song, one of the unreleased tracks from the main disc:
Down The Big Road Blues – Lucinda Williams
And I just flat-out love this song. As I wrote about it last year, “There is some *delicious* slide guitar throughout in the vein of Ben Harper, and a leg-slappin’, toe-tappin’ beat. Stand up and listen to this and if you can be still throughout, then I think your rhythm-appreciator-thingie is broken.”
Can’t Let Go – Lucinda Williams
And a sample of the great live set from WXPN (Bruce is just rolling in the good music over there in the vaults); I’ve thought before that the title of this song and the way it’s written may make it sound cornier and more cliched than the song itself deserves. The lyrics of this song are so dang evocative and sad and give me the chills. Junebug vs. hurricane indeed.