Lucinda Williams Biography

26 January 1953, Lake Charles, Louisiana, USA. Her father, Miller Williams, is a professor of literature and a professional poet, but it was her mother, a music graduate, who influenced Lucinda the most. After a period spent travelling in the early 70s, Williams concentrated on playing folk clubs in Texas, mixing traditional blues and folk songs with original material. She recorded two albums for Folkways Records, with the second, 1980’s Happy Woman Blues, comprised entirely of her own material.

Williams’ career failed to take off until she moved to Los Angeles some years later, but she was further stymied by an abortive development contract with CBS Records in the mid-80s. Her self-titled album for Rough Trade Records in 1988 moved closer into rock ‘n’ roll territory, and re-established Williams as a songwriting force with its attendant strong press. The 1992 follow-up Sweet Old World provided darker subject matter than most folk country albums, with the title track and ‘Pineola’ exploring suicide (Williams describes songwriting as ‘like writing a journal but I don’t want it to sound self-indulgent’). It included a cover version of Nick Drake’s ‘Which Will’, with musical backing by Benmont Tench, Bryce Berline and Doug Atwell. Williams also performed on tribute albums to Merle Haggard (Tulare Dust) and Victoria Williams (Sweet Relief), and Mary Chapin Carpenter earned a major US country hit with her ‘Passionate Kisses’.

In 1998, Williams broke a long recording silence when she contributed ‘Still I Long For Your Kiss’ to the soundtrack of Robert Redford’s adaptation of The Horse Whisperer, and released the superb Car Wheels On A Gravel Road. The album won a Grammy Award for Best Contemporary Folk Album and attained gold sales status, more than just reward for one of the finest singer-songwriter albums of the decade. The follow-up Essence pared the production values down to a minimum without detracting from the songwriting quality. The upbeat track ‘Get Right With God’ earned Williams her second Grammy (this time for Best Female Rock performance). World Without Tears (2003) saw Williams continuing in a rich vein of form, exploring the bluesier side of her repertoire with some panache.

A four year hiatus followed, during which the singer lost her mother and survived the ending of a long-term relationship to find romance anew. During this period she returned to the studio to complete the oddly muted West. Nevertheless, Williams had finally reached a point in her career where she is no longer seen as a songwriter who happens to sing, but a major singer-songwriter on the cusp of real success.

Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.

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