I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about why Lucinda Williams’ music affects listeners on such a visceral level. Both women and men find something immediate and real in her songs. The calls I get after playing a Lucinda tune range from men interested in knowing more about the earthy singer to women who feel an emotional bond to her stories of real-world love and gut-wrenching betrayals. She’s gritty, she’s smart, she not afraid to curse. Her voice is all whiskey whispers, slow southern draw and raspy rock and roll.
At age 55 Lucinda Williams has perfected the art of telling stories of hard-scrabble living. Gleaning over the last 2 decades of her songs one can come to the conclusion that love has been a cruel suitor. Lucinda’s been taken advantage of, lied to, she’s been majorly pissed off, and sometimes love has broken down her tough-on-the-outside, mush-on-the-inside, heart.
That’s why it’s so intriguing that Little Honey opens with “Real Love.” Lucinda doesn’t just sound happy, she ecstatic! “I found the love I’ve been looking for/It’s real love….” The love fest continues as she rolls into “Circles And X’s,” you know, those cute little marks you make on a love note. One of the aspects of Lucinda’s writing that allows her fans to connect so deeply to her is that simplicity. Imagine breaking down all those complex emotions you feel when you fall in love to symbols of kisses and hugs. When Lucinda gets to the title track it’s blushing time. “I’m so glad you stung me/Now I got your honey/All over my tummy/Honey it’s heaven/Twenty-four seven." Geez, I can’t wait till I’m 55! The song is a head-banging rocker with ripping guitars and pulse-pounding drums – one of her best ever.
Lucinda’s long been a pro at writing great country tunes and “Well Well Well” is another track that ranks up there with her best work. It’s all rollicking rhythm, guitar-picked melody and crackling smart lyrics. The blues play a predominant role on Little Honey. “Tears of Joy” features a sexy sinuous blues guitar at its core and Lucinda curls her vocals around that center and is backed by a chorus of blues ladies. A couple of tunes deal with the victims of the rock and roll life that pushes so many performers to precarious ledges of sanity. “Little Rock Star” portrays a young rock musician who hasn’t yet learned the art of surviving the brutal music business. “Rarity” describes the struggle of any number of talented overlooked musicians. “Jailhouse Tears” features Elvis Costello and Lucinda in a funny call and answer ballad between a fed-up woman and a f**ked-up junkie who’s full of s**t – those are Lucinda’s poetic choices.
Little Honey, for all it’s hopefulness, does offer a couple of bittersweet litanies including “If Wishes Were Horse.” But the one that stands out to me is “Plan To Marry.” It’s sentiment is a reminder that in a dysfunctional world love is the ultimate saving grace. Don’t take it for granted