Song of the Day #2,780: ‘Louisiana Story’ – Lucinda Williams

lucinda_ghosts_highway_20The final track of Disc One of Lucinda Williams’ The Ghosts of Highway 20 is, lyrically, the most impressive so far. Also the most gut-wrenching.

Williams recalls her own childhood in Louisiana with sweet nostalgia. She paints a picture of carefree days spent mostly outside, and loving parents who got angry only over little things like spilled milk or a slamming screen door.

The she turns to another situation — presumably that of a childhood friend — which is fraught with physical and mental abuse. “Looking back on the sweetness, looking back on the rough.”

At just over 9 minutes, this is the second longest track on the album, and it feels a little more like a confession than a song. Williams definitely paid less attention to melody on this album than she did to lyrics and production. There ain’t no singles here. But it’s powerful stuff.

In the Deep South when I was growing up
Looking back on the sweetness
Looking back on the rough
The sun going down, crickets at night
Lawnmower sounds and mosquito bites
Swatting at a fly, hearing the neighbors talk
So hot you could fry an egg on the sidewalk
Outside playing barefoot in the street
Tar would be sticking to the bottom of my feet
Running and chasing after the ice cream wagon
“Mama, can I have a quarter so that I can get me one?”

On a good day mama’d make us sweet coffee milk
On bad days she cussed when something got spilled
And Daddy taught the Bible, Lake Charles to Monroe
Shreveport to Slidell, Baton Rouge to Thibodaux
He chewed tobacco and spit out in a can
All the while hollering, “Don’t let the screen door slam”

Her daddy’s kind didn’t spare the rod
Blinded by the fear and the wrath of the Lord
He’d call her a sinner, say, “you’re going to hell”
Now finish your dinner and tell ’em you fell
And when the blood came
Her mama told her she was unclean
And her mama would scold her
Mama always felt Christian guilt
And then put to bed under a homemade quilt

God knows it rains in Louisiana
But not enough to wash away the sins of the father
And God knows momma loved her daughter
And they say that blood is thicker than water

Down in the Deep South when I was growing up
Looking back on the sweetness
Looking back on the rough

2 thoughts on “Song of the Day #2,780: ‘Louisiana Story’ – Lucinda Williams

  1. Dana says:

    “Gut-wrenching…9 minute…melodiless….confessional” does not describe anything to which I wish to listen, certainly not more than once. Good riddance to disc one of this self-indulgent, sleepy, slurry double album.

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