Song of the Day #1,138: ‘Ugly Truth’ – Lucinda Williams

I’ve already reviewed Lucinda Williams’ 2011 album, Blessed, so this will be more of a look-back. As I mentioned in last week’s R.E.M. post, it’s often only months after the fact that I know how I really feel about an album.

Without exception, Lucinda Williams’ albums have aged well. In fact, they are the musical equivalent of one of those movies that I need to see twice to really get. I liked just about every Coen Brothers movie after one viewing and loved them after two. Williams is in the same boat.

That’s because her songs aren’t generally hook-heavy, and they are often deceptively simple. Her melodies are subtle, her instrumentation unfussy. Her music sounds (at least in spirit) like it is being played on a porch by a group of old friends.

I don’t mean to sell the production short, though. Blessed, in particular, is a splendidly produced album on which every drumbeat is thick as syrup and every slide guitar sounds like the moan of a homesick ghost. This is mood music at its finest.

‘Ugly Truth’ is a country folk song tucked away at the back end of Blessed and it’s one of my favorite tracks on the album. It’s a mournfully upbeat tune about the inability to hide from your inner demons. Its theme is summed up nicely in the first part of the chorus: “From the cradle to the grave, you will always be a slave to the quiet darkness of your memories.”

Hide your background, hide your fame
Hide your given middle name
Swallow your pride, swallow your pills
In your house up in the hills

Leave your husband, leave your wife
Keep on runnin’ your whole life
Sweep your dirt under the rug
Fix your hurt with a little love

From the cradle to the grave
You will always be a slave
To the quiet darkness of your memories
And that’s the truth, my friend
The ugly truth, my friend
I’ve got proof, my friend
And that’s the truth

Keep your secrets to yourself
Keep your paperbacks up on the shelf
Burn your bridges, burn your friends
Blow ’em kisses and make amends

Take the high road or take the low
No one but you and God will ever know
And you might play rough and win or lose
Either way, love, you’ll get the blues

I’ve got proof, my friend
And that’s the truth

9 thoughts on “Song of the Day #1,138: ‘Ugly Truth’ – Lucinda Williams

  1. Dana says:

    “every drumbeat is thick as syrup and every slide guitar sounds like the moan of a homesick ghost.” — Great description. You really know how to turn a phrase in these reviews.

    Great song as well. Williams is definitely a talent.

  2. pegclifton says:

    Does she always sound like she’s had too much to drink? In this song, I can’t help feeling she’s slurring her words like she’s a bit drunk. I do like the lyrics just not the labored way she is singing them. Need to go back to some of the older posts to see if she sounds this way.

  3. Dana says:

    Ha, that is typically the way she sounds and, as I have commented in the past, it can be a bit off-putting (at least to me). However, I think her delivery works in this type of song (or maybe I’m just getting more used to her voice:)).

  4. pegclifton says:

    I hadn’t noticed it before; I’m going to revisit earlier posts πŸ™‚

  5. Clay says:

    Her voice has definitely grown more “drunken” on recent albums. I don’t know if that’s an artistic choice or some physical change.

    As a contrast, listen to ‘Passionate Kisses,’ her earliest hit, where she sounds much different.

  6. pegclifton says:

    I’ve listened to several other songs on you tube as well, and there is definitely a difference.

  7. Amy says:

    Very funny to come to this SOTD a day late and read the comments before hearing the lush sing her song πŸ˜‰ I have to agree with Peg that it feels a bit as though someone got up,after the 4th or 5th round, to grab the mic at a local bar.

  8. Clay says:

    Here’s how I put it in my review of the album:

    “Williams is in fine voice on this record, meaning she drunkenly slurs with more conviction than ever. Williams has one of the most provocative and evocative voices in the business, a voice rich with experience.”

  9. pegclifton says:

    well, I would say that you were right on in your review.

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