Song of the Day #965: ‘Jackson’ – Lucinda Williams

I feel like I’ve mentioned Lucinda Williams’ 1998 Car Wheels On a Gravel Road about a thousand times on this blog. So I checked and the actual number is thirteen (not counting today). This is another of my desert island discs and one I can’t help but reference frequently.

That’s because it does so much right in so many different ways. It rocks awfully damn hard but also contains moments of great tenderness. It is filled with simple but profound story songs, such as the title track’s childhood reminiscence of an early morning car ride or a woman stripping down to wait for her lover in bed (in opening track ‘Right on Time’).

Almost all of the songs on Car Wheels are about specific times and places. Williams drops more city names over the course of this album than a cross-country train conductor. She brings the listener to Lake Charles, Greenville, Rosedale, Nacogdoches, Slidell. In today’s song alone, she rounds up four more. The frequent flier mileage on this album would be something to behold.

The people in these songs are trying to get to those places, or sometimes they’ve been left behind. This is a sad record, full of missed connections and lost opportunities. At least two of these songs are about the death of a loved one.

“Did an angel whisper in your ear,” Williams sings on the beautiful ‘Lake Charles,’ “and hold you close and take away your fear, in those long last moments?”

On ‘Metal Firecracker,’ about a once true love that’s faded, she delivers a line that pierces my heart every time I hear it: “All I ask, don’t tell anybody the secrets that I told you.” I’d never really thought before about the guarded parts of you that are suddenly untethered when a longtime lover breaks it off.

‘Jackson’ is the final track on Car Wheels on a Gravel Road and one of the most poignant. It’s a simple blues structure, with just the one repeating verse, but the interplay of Williams’ acoustic guitar with her jagged voice and then an increasing number of instruments and other vocalists turns it into something bordering on a religious experience.

All the way to Jackson
I don’t think I’ll miss you much
All the way to Jackson
I don’t think I’ll miss you much

Once I get to Lafayette
I’m not gonna mind one bit
Once I get to Lafayette
I’m not gonna mind one little bit

Once I get to Baton Rouge
I won’t cry a tear for you
Once I get to Baton Rouge
I won’t cry a tear for you

All the way to Jackson
I don’t think I’ll miss you much
All the way to Jackson
I don’t think I’ll miss you much

Once I get to Vicksburg
I don’t think I’ll feel the urge
Once I get to Vicksburg
I won’t even feel an urge

All the way to Jackson
I don’t think I’ll miss you much
All the way to Jackson
I don’t think I’ll miss you much

One thought on “Song of the Day #965: ‘Jackson’ – Lucinda Williams

  1. Dana says:

    I really have to give this album a closer listen given your oft repeated high praise.

    This is a beautiful song. I must admit, though, that, for some reason, I don’t always connect with Lucinda’s voice. I can’t really say why. Maybe just a tad too twangy? It’s actually a minor stumbling block for me, however, as I can’t take issue with the excellence of her songwriting, at least from the songs I have heard so far.

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