By Darryl Smyers
For the better part of four decades, Lucinda Williams has been one of the best songwriters going. Over the course of ten albums, Williams has moved from earthy blues and folk to jangly country/pop. What has remained consistent is her breathtaking vocal delivery and unflinching honesty.
A propos of, um, nothing except for our love for her (and the fact that she lives in L.A.!), we took a shot at listing the 11 best songs in her catalog.
11. “Changed the Locks”
From her 1988 self-titled third album (considered by many to be her best), “Change the Locks” is one of Williams' most hard hitting numbers. Her sneering vocal performance fits the song's ill-tempered mood. The Silos do a great version of this on their 1994 album Susan Across the Ocean.
10. “Steal Your Love”
From 2001's Essence, this mid-tempo cut is filled with yearning and regret: two of Williams' most common themes. The album gets a bad rap from fans, but “Steal Your Love” fits right alongside Williams' best work.
9. “Six Blocks Away”
The opening cut from 1990's Sweet Old World, “Six Blocks Away” is one of Williams' best jangle pop/country songs. Interestingly, the song's lyrics offer none of the music's bright optimism. Perhaps that is why the track works so well.
8. “Right in Time”
Te first blast from 1998's Car Wheels on a Gravel Road, “Right in Time” set the tone for what some critics have called Williams' best album.
Also from Sweet Old World, “Pineola” concerns the suicide of southern poet Frank Stanford, who shot himself in the heart in 1978.
6. “Fruits of My Labor”
Another great opening cut, “Fruits of My Labor” starts off 2003's World Without Tears with a slow, affecting waltz. Williams' Louisiana twang is drawn out to great effect.
5. “Seeing Black”
From 2011's Blessed, “Seeing Black” is Williams at her angriest, in a critique of an ex-lover.
4. “Drunken Angel”
Another song from Car Wheels on a Gravel Road, “Drunken Angel” is a sad tale of alcohol and drug abuse that ends predictably but never panders to cliché.
3. “Real Love”
From 2008's Little Honey (an underappreciated effort), “Real Love” is a return to the jangle pop/country days of old. Her band here includes Matthew Sweet, Susanna Hoffs and Doug Pettibone.
2. “Crescent City”
Another fantastic cut from Williams' self-titled third effort, “Crescent City” is brimming with Cajun charm. With a chorus partly sung in French, the song is a perfect example of Williams' exemplary gift of wordplay and melody.
1. “Side of the Road”
Also from her self-titled album, “Side of the Road” encapsulates everything great about Lucinda Williams. It's a sad but uplifting story of the limits of true love, about wanting time for yourself even in the most serious of relationships. “I want to know the touch of my own skin/ against the sun, against the wind,” Williams sings as the music paints the scene. It's a transcendent moment from a songwriter with transformative skills.
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