Good Souls Better Angels
Lucinda Williams, at age 67, has a lot to say about the state of the world in her latest album Good Souls Better Angels. When she released her debut album way back in 1979 Jimmy Carter was the US President, the Happy Meal was the new big thing, and the big fight onscreen was Kramer vs Kramer. Here in 2020, the older, wiser Williams takes on politics, domestic issues and a lot of stuff that pisses her off. No mention of McDonalds.
Her bluesy, thoughtful, music was always very respected and loved by fans, but you could say the world finally caught up with her on Car Wheels on a Gravel Road in 1998, which went Gold and won a Grammy for Best Contemporary Folk Album. We will leave that category choice aside; the woman won a Grammy and got the attention she deserved. She works with the same producer here, Ray Kennedy (along with her husband Tom Overby), but the sound and the attitude on Good Angels Better Souls are not the same.
Here her unique voice is just as gravelly as that road, which we expect, and her occasionally sarcastic, sometimes horny, always “in the moment” delivery is unchanged.
However, the vibe goes from blues to rock more often than not. Classic Williams themes are here, like on “Bad News Blues”: “No matter where I go I can’t get away from it” or “Pray The Devil Back To Hell”: “going down past the bottom where evil won’t go.” These will sound familiar(ish) to fans.
But, damn, y’all, she’s angry. “Man Without a Soul” takes no prisoners: “You hide behind your wall of lies but it is coming down” is one of the nicer lyrics. It’s quite evident which world leader she is talking about, and the guitar is letting you know she’s not a supporter. And the aforementioned abusive relationship song, “Wakin’ Up” – yikes. “He pulled my hair And then he kicks on me Next thing, I swear He wants to kiss on me.” Its nearly grunge, and a tough listen.
Get ready for Lucinda Williams Good Souls Better Angels
The result is 12 tracks that are in your face, demanding you wake up to what’s happening, what’s on her mind. This isn’t “last song of the night on the jukebox, and hey are you coming home with me” music.
I’m respecting what she’s doing, but I’m not sure I want to go on this ride with her. Williams does save the best until last with the closing seven minutes of “Good Souls”. It’s a gentler track, a plea to the angels and to good friends to give her the strength to stay strong. It’s a great and surprising end to an unexpected, bold new album from a legend.
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A former ABC National, Dallas and Atlanta radio personality, Martina O'Boyle is now making movies and covering culture in London, Dublin, and as far in Europe as the cheapie flights will take her, for Pop Culture Beast.