My list of favorite albums in recent years is so dominated by female artists that it’s a shock to look back at 2001 and see how bro-tastic my tastes were then.
Lucinda Williams’ Essence, my #6 album of that year, is the only work by a woman in my top ten.
Now, in my defense, I haven’t found a lot of strong female contenders among the albums I missed out on in 2001. Maybe it just wasn’t a strong year for women in music. But it is striking, especially coming off of a year when five of my top seven albums were by women.
Lucinda Williams has released a dozen albums during her 38-year career, four in the first 18 years and eight in the last 20. She stepped up the pace after 1998’s Car Wheels On a Gravel Road (still her best album), releasing a record about once every other year.
My guess is that if 2014’s Down Where the Spirit Meets the Bone had come after a lengthy hiatus, rather than during the relatively productive streak Williams was on at the time, it would have been received with more critical fanfare.
Our next Montauk Madness matchup pairs off a couple of celebrated veteran singer-songwriters, Paul Simon and Lucinda Williams.
Simon dispatched Elton John in Round One and had an even easier time knocking out Sting in Round Two, with 90% of the vote. Williams faced off against a couple of indie acts, topping Garbage in the first round and picking up 71% to defeat The Shins in Round Two. Continue reading
None of the Round Two Montauk Madness matchups have been laughers so far, but this is the first one I’ve found truly difficult.
Lucinda Williams advanced easily over Garbage, picking up 91% of the votes, while The Shins won in more of a squeaker, besting Coldplay with 55%. I voted for both of them in those battles. But who should I vote for here? Continue reading
Closing out this first week of Montauk Madness, we have the fifth matchup from Round One, pitting Lucinda Williams against Garbage. Folk rock vs. industrial rock. Organic vs. electronic.
As much as I like Garbage, particularly their first three albums, this is another easy pick. Ideally, the first round should be easy, though peeking ahead I see a couple of hair-pullers on the horizon.
Well, here we are at the final track of Lucinda Williams’ The Ghosts of Highway 20. I know it’s been a tough slog for some of my readers.
Lucinda Williams, like Bob Dylan, is an acquired taste. She reminds me a lot of Dylan, especially in recent years, as her work has moved more towards country blues and even more towards “I don’t give a damn.” She’s not after radio play or big sales — she makes the music she’s moved to make. And her most loyal fans are moved right along with her.
The penultimate song on Lucinda Williams’ The Ghosts of Highway 20 makes it clear that while this album is about life in those small southern towns, it is just as much a reaction to the passing of her father.
Perhaps those two themes are forever intertwined, as Williams’ childhood memories are no doubt populated largely by that man and those places. As the album starts winding to a close, the most prominent ghost of all proves to be that of Miller Williams.