Lucinda Williams had “blues” in an album title way back to her second launch, 1980’s “Blissful Lady Blues,” nevertheless it took till 2020 for her to really get as bluesy — in an electrified, garage-y sort of means — as she does on her new album, “Good Souls Higher Angels.” It’s as uncooked and hard-rocking an album as she’s made, because of the truth that she reduce it on the short along with her touring band and co-producers Ray Kennedy, one of many guiding lights behind her 1998 basic “Automobile Wheels on a Gravel Street,” and Tom Overby, her husband and supervisor. Williams spoke with Selection from her new dwelling in Nashville, town she lately moved again to after a long time in Los Angeles.
VARIETY: This seems like your hardest-edged, blues-iest album — do you’re feeling like that means about it?
WILLIAMS: Yeah, that is actually sort of the album I’ve all the time wished to make. I like the grungy sound of the blues factor. I feel it was a mixture of the type of the songs after which Ray Kennedy’s experience at getting this type of classic sound. We didn’t even know for positive if we have been going to document the entire album with Ray Kennedy at his studio, however he simply invited us and stated come test it out and see what you suppose. A part of it was his studio, which is a really rudimentary, no-frills sort of studio, after which he’s received a set of all these classic guitars and classic amplifiers. With quite a lot of the songs I’d be taking part in a 1950s guitar going to a 1950s amp, and that gave it a sure sound. The opposite factor that units this album aside is the truth that it’s simply my touring band. We have been in between two excursions, so we saved them over for a number of further days and went in. I assumed I wished to convey some folks in to do some concord and add this and that, however all people stated, “We must always simply depart it like it’s.” It provides it that sure garage-rock sound.
Did you’ve got any doubts about placing the album out now?
Any person I used to be speaking to stated, “Properly, that is precisely the proper time to place an album out,” due to the pandemic and every part. In a means, the timing most likely couldn’t be higher, for this specific album, due to the character of the songs. “Man With out a Soul” was the primary track that folks heard off the album, and all people’s response was like, “That is precisely how I felt. Thanks, this actually helped.” Persons are asking me issues like, “Properly, how do you know?” — prefer it’s so prophetic or one thing.
It’s not a stretch to see “Man With out a Soul” as being a track about Trump.
With that track, folks go, “Oh, that’s about Trump.” And you already know, I suppose it sort of is, nevertheless it’s actually simply sort of about that kind of individual. Actually, Tom was like, “Don’t inform all people it’s about Trump!” And I’m going, “I’m not —all people’s telling me!” [Laughs.] After which he goes, “Properly, it doesn’t should be about Trump. It may very well be about Mitch McConnell, too.” It’s sort of like: choose one! However we posted that track to Fb together with an article that got here out within the New York Instances referred to as “Has Anybody Discovered Trump’s Soul?” And all these hate feedback got here up: “I assumed Lucinda had compassion. She wrote that track ‘Compassionate,’ and he or she shouldn’t be writing a track like this.“ Or, “She wants to remain out of politics and simply write songs and be a musician. I used to be a fan of hers earlier than, however not anymore.” And I used to be identical to, what? I imply, God, to begin with, anyone who’s a fan of mine, I assumed they know the place I stood on issues. I suppose I’ve had followers like that and didn’t know that. For some cause, this track apparently pushed a button. I sort of like pushing folks’s buttons; I really feel like, you already know, get up! I suppose I’m going to lose some followers with this album, however to hell with it.
Tom has been arising with concepts for songs, and “Man With out a Soul” was considered one of them. At first I stated, “All people’s received a soul!” He responded two methods. He stated, “Properly, I don’t know if all people has a soul,” after which he goes, “Simply have a look at it as an expression. It doesn’t should be taken actually.” I used to be just a little resistant at first. It jogged my memory of that line in that Neil Younger track the place he says, “Even Richard Nixon has received soul.”
The songs aren’t overtly political, however there are deep undertones. Do you consider it as topical? There’s a giant overlap, mood-wise, between the normal “hellhound of my tail” feeling of the blues you’re typically referring to after which simply feeling a way of foreboding in regards to the world proper now.
Yeah, that’s how I really feel about it. However I used to be beginning to write extra songs about humanity and issues earlier than this. On my album “Blessed,” I wrote this track “Soldier Music,” which might be considered one of my extra obscure songs, however that was an antiwar track. And with “Born to be Liked” and even the track “Blessed,” I used to be sort of beginning to experiment with writing songs about issues apart from unrequited love. I’ve all the time wished to do this anyway, ever since 1965 once I began listening to Bob Dylan and he had all these nice protest or topical songs like “Masters of Struggle” and “A Arduous Rain’s Gonna Fall” and “With God on Our Facet” and songs like that. And I all the time wished to sort of discover that space extra, you already know? However I suppose folks aren’t used to it. I hate to speak in regards to the ‘60s like, “Oh, I bear in mind the ‘60s, how nice it was” — nevertheless it was!
But when I used to be going to select a track that I might’ve stated, “Ought to I put this on the album?,” it wouldn’t have been “Man With out a Soul.” It will be “Wakin’ Up,” simply by way of the brashness of it lyrically.
“Wakin’ Up” is about home abuse. Had you wished to write down about that for some time?
It was about this relationship that I used to be in, and I’d truly touched on it a few earlier songs, “Jailhouse Tears” and “Buttercup,” which have been sort of extra humorous seems to be at it. After which I got here up with this track. I wanted to get it out of my system. There was clearly some anger. I felt self-conscious about it just a little, like I’m airing my soiled laundry. However everyone knows different individuals who’ve been by way of related conditions.
It’s laborious to confess that you just have been silly sufficient to become involved with any person like that. This man was like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, and he would threaten me and do this factor such as you see within the films the place any person places their arm round your neck. I bear in mind sitting within the kitchen counter on a barstool, and he came to visit and simply pulled the chair out— like simply this bizarre sort of psychotic factor. And so, you already know, that lasted, I imply, that went on, you already know, for… I imply, all of that didn’t begin until proper earlier than the top of issues. after which, however I’ve discovered myself and now I perceive the battered ladies syndrome factor. And he’d get up the following day and he doesn’t bear in mind something, you already know. You inform him what occurred. He goes, “Actually? God, I’m so sorry child. Oh, that’ll, I’m sorry. I don’t know what occurred. That may by no means occur once more.”
You sort of simply numb your self. I, like quite a lot of different folks, used to suppose, “Oh, it’s only a sure sort of girl who will get caught in one thing like that.” However no —I’m good, I’m conscious, and it occurred to me. There are specific issues in our society which can be nonetheless just a little taboo that folks don’t wish to discuss. And actually that is one other type of psychological sickness. It will probably trigger every kind of behavioral issues.
And I handled quite a lot of that with my mom. Now, she wasn’t bodily abusive, however she would go off and drink and sort of disappear, and never be emotionally out there for me. So it’s a type of issues that’s more durable to speak about, I suppose. However I’m capable of write songs and discuss it that means. Thank God I’ve an outlet for this stuff, you already know?
Right here I used to be listening to “Wakin’ Up” and pondering the road about pulling the chair out from underneath you was a metaphor.
Yeah, it’s truly actually literal. My bass participant goes, “Lu, simply be ready that you just’re going to have to speak about this should you put it on the album.” Nevertheless it must be on the market.
There’s quite a lot of darkness and foreboding on the album, nevertheless it’s additionally enjoyable and driving, musically, which generally is a difficult steadiness to strike.
Precisely. Properly, I feel that’s what a few of my favourite artists endlessly to do, individuals who I grew up listening to, just like the Doorways, Jim Morrison’s stuff. And one other in a while, a band that I simply fell head over heels in love with after they first got here out, was Speaking Heads — David Byrne’s stuff (had depth), nevertheless it was danceable. And Chrissie Hynde and the Pretenders too, you already know? I like that juxtaposition between the darker lyrics and the upbeat sort of music. Thievery Company is one other favourite band of mine who Tom turned me on to. They’ve this track that I coated, that I do stay typically, referred to as “Marching the Hate Machine Into the Solar.” It’s mainly an anti-war track, and the lyrics are written by Wayne Coyne from the Flaming Lips. That’s the sort of stuff that appeals to me. Struggle on Medicine is one other band favourite.
We’ve misplaced a few vital music figures to the coronavirus lately, and extra importantly, you’ve misplaced them, because you knew each John Prine and Hal Willner (who produced her 2007 album “West”).
Properly, we came upon about each of their deaths on the identical day. After all with John, we have been just a little extra ready, nevertheless it nonetheless didn’t make it any simpler. We knew he was within the hospital and we knew he contracted the virus. However we nonetheless thought, “He’s going to beat this. He’s robust and he’s beat most cancers twice.” And so we thought it was going to be okay. A part of it’s we have been sort of ready with John’s passing, after which the opposite a part of us thought he would beat it.
However with Hal’s dying, we had no concept in any respect that he contracted the virus. It was simply “Hal Willner is useless.” That’s the one which Tom and I each have been having a tough time sort of coping with the truth of, as a result of it was so sudden and sudden. However to listen to about each of their deaths on the identical day was simply surreal. We’re each nonetheless reeling from the information. Hal, the final product that I labored on him with hasn’t been launched — which is basic Hal. It was a T. Rex tribute album, and I recorded their track stay to DAT. It nonetheless hasn’t come out as a result of he saved inviting increasingly artists to return in and do tracks, which is what he would all the time do with initiatives. No matter venture he had began, he would simply hold constructing on it and constructing on it.
After which the final time I noticed John Prine was in November once we went to do that music competition that he and his spouse Fiona placed on within the Dominican Republic, and I received invited to go play with my band. I’m glad I used to be ready to do this much more now, as a result of I received to see John and Fiona and hug John. It’s too quickly for each of them.
How is the sheltering in place going? You moved again to Nashville, proper?
Yeah. We have been spending fairly a little bit of time right here, between L.A. and Nashville. And so we simply thought we higher give up spending cash staying in a resort, and go forward and get one thing right here. So we’re right here and we’re truly renting our home out in L.A. proper now. One of many causes we have been spending extra time right here due to between excursions, quite a lot of instances we ended up in Nashville; the tour bus would find yourself right here as a result of the buses all stay right here. Flying backwards and forwards into L.A. and coping with LAX and the drive from the airport to the home was simply so traumatic, after which once we would get there, we simply by no means would actually see anyone — you know the way L.A. is simply so unfold out. And the general public we cope with now with our enterprise are all based mostly in Nashville, and so many individuals we all know have moved right here or moved again right here. I lived right here within the ‘90s and I by no means thought I might be transferring again, nevertheless it’s like a complete completely different place now. And if you’re on the town, it’s simpler too, like going out to listen to bands. I nonetheless love L.A. What’s to not love, with the climate? Nevertheless it’s simply simpler right here.
Does it make a distinction for the close to future which metropolis you’re caught in, if everyone seems to be caught?
Properly, I’m glad that we’re caught right here. The very first thing that occurred once we have been right here was when the twister hit. We’d simply moved into the home. We have been utterly overcome with emotion once we noticed excellent strangers displaying as much as assist after the twister. That group spirit and the neighborly issues, I’d sort of forgotten how that was. Simply little issues like our trash cans received blown away within the twister, and we needed to order some extra, and it took a number of weeks for them to reach. Within the meantime, the person behind us —there’s like a kind of an alley that runs behind; we’re in a extremely outdated neighborhood referred to as Lockwood Springs, and all the homes have been constructed within the ‘20s and ’30s, with the trash cans in alleys within the again — this older black man says, “Oh, you should utilize my trash can, simply put it in there for now.” That sort of factor.
Tom and I haven’t left the home, and we’ve been capable of reap the benefits of the time that we’re not out on the highway to get to do all of the press in addition to engaged on songs. Tom and I are evening owls, so we keep up late watching TV. I watch and skim the information, and all of the Trump stuff is simply un-freaking-believable. It’s dangerous sufficient, the pandemic, after which we additionally should have the scenario within the White Home. We’ve had issues since this nation was settled… however It’s unprecedented, actually, all of this. Gotta get to the polls, folks! Vote blue, regardless of who.