With The Ghosts of Highway 20, Lucinda Williams is ready to leave grief behind. “There is just so much grieving. My father passed away from Alzheimer's – that happened in between the last two albums. I had more to say about that. Now, I think I have gotten it all out of my system. I am ready to rock now.”
Williams’ 2016 release – The Ghosts of Highway 20 – was a mainstay of most critics’ lists of the top albums of the year. Discussing the record, she is quick to credit the collaborations of American music pillars like Bill Frisell and Greg Leisz.
“[Frisell’s] guitar sound really added a certain sound to everything. He is on a couple of tracks from Down Where the Spirit Meets the Bone. On this last one, he is on every song. He is a very unique guitar player,” she explains.
Throughout her conversation with Orlando Weekly in anticipation of a string of Florida shows, Williams continued to pair up her last two records, but their congruence goes beyond that sense of grief.
“Some of the songs that came out on this last album, on The Ghosts of Highway 20, we recorded during the same time period of the last two albums, then we separated the songs out. I wrote some new ones to add to this last one. It is almost like these last two albums are kind of book ends," clarifies Williams.
Both albums also feature lyrics by Williams’ father, renowned poet Miller Williams, whom the singer-songwriter lists as an integral part of her artistic upbringing and evolution. “My dad helped me put together this folder. I still have it. On the front page it says Seven Poems and a Short Story. I was trying my best to write poems and things. Later, once I learned how to play guitar, I guess I wrote my first song, when I was 12 or 13. I started taking guitar lessons at 12 and a half," she reminisces.
“I never studied music formally. I remember as a kid, sitting at the piano, tinkering around on the piano keys. I had that urge, that drive at an early age. I wanted to do something with music and writing. I was lucky because I had those genetics on both sides. My dad being a poet and my mom playing the piano, and loving music.”
Williams' cult-hero status did not come overnight. After a decades-long career, she is familiar with the issues besetting the arts and music business. “The record industry is still very male-dominated. I am not sure why that is. Probably just like in other work areas, where women are competing with men and the difficulties they encounter," she says matter-of-factly. "I think there should be more women in the music business part of it, running things; more women producers, and women engineers. It is hard to say why there aren't more women in [those] roles.”
Keeping on a busy writing, recording and touring schedule, Williams delegates the logistical duties to her husband and manager, Tom Overby, who maintains an open line between Lucinda and her fans: “Tom is the set guy now, so he puts the set together, and a lot of what goes into it. He also set up a thing on my fan page where people can request songs if they will be at the show that night. He looks into that, we add those in, he shows me the set. I will say ‘OK, maybe this instead of that.’”
Fans can always look forward to live staples like "Joy" and "Drunken Angel" to go along with recent favorites like "Dust," "Compassion," "If My Love Could Kill," and "If There’s a Heaven." Coming out of a period of grieving, Williams is ready to have some fun on stage and on the next album.
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