Lucinda Williams

For the athlete, see Lucinda Williams (athlete).
Lucinda Williams

Williams at the Fillmore, San Francisco, October 2009
Background information
Born (1953-01-26) January 26, 1953
Origin Lake Charles, Louisiana, United States
Occupation(s) Singer, songwriter
Instruments Vocals, acoustic guitar
Years active 1978–present
Associated acts Buick 6, Elvis Costello, M. Ward

Lucinda Williams (born January 26, 1953)[1] is an American rock, folk, blues, and country music singer and songwriter.

She recorded her first albums in 1978 and 1980 in a traditional country and blues style and received very little attention from radio, the media, or the public. In 1988, she released her self-titled album, Lucinda Williams. This release featured "Passionate Kisses", a song later recorded by Mary Chapin Carpenter, which garnered Williams her first Grammy Award for Best Country Song in 1994.

Known for working slowly, Williams recorded and released only one other album in the next several years (Sweet Old World in 1992) before her greatest success came in 1998 with Car Wheels on a Gravel Road, an album presenting a broader scope of songs that fused rock, blues, country and Americana into a more distinctive style that still managed to remain consistent and commercial in sound. It went gold and earned Williams another Grammy while being acclaimed by critics. Since Car Wheels on a Gravel Road, she has released a string of albums that have also been critically acclaimed, though none has sold in the numbers of her 1998 breakthrough. She was also named "America's best songwriter" by Time magazine in 2002.[2]

Early life

Williams was born in Lake Charles, Louisiana, the daughter of poet and literature professor Miller Williams and an amateur pianist, Lucille Fern Day. Her parents divorced in the mid-1960s. Williams's father gained custody of her and her younger brother, Robert Miller, and sister, Karyn Elizabeth. Like her father, she has spina bifida.[3] Her father worked as a visiting professor in Mexico and different parts of the United States, including Baton Rouge; New Orleans; Jackson, Mississippi; and Utah before settling at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville. Williams never graduated from high school but was accepted into the University of Arkansas.[4] Williams started writing when she was 6 years old and showed an affinity for music at an early age, and was playing guitar at 12. Williams's first live performance was in Mexico City at 17, as part of a duo with her friend, a banjo player named Clark Jones.[5]


Early years

By her early 20s, Williams was playing publicly in Austin and Houston, Texas, concentrating on a folk-rock-country blend. She moved to Jackson, Mississippi, in 1978 to record her first album, for Smithsonian/Folkways Records. Titled Ramblin' on My Mind, it was a collection of country and blues covers. The album title was shortened to Ramblin' when it was reissued. She followed it up in 1980 with Happy Woman Blues, which consisted of her own material. Neither album received much attention.

In the 1980s, Williams moved to Los Angeles, California (before finally settling in Nashville, Tennessee), where, both backed by a rock band and performing in acoustic settings, she developed a following and a critical reputation. While based in Los Angeles, she was briefly married to Long Ryders drummer Greg Sowders, whom she had met in a club. In 1988 Rough Trade Records released the self-titled Lucinda Williams, which was produced by Gurf Morlix. The single "Changed the Locks," about a broken relationship, received radio play around the country and gained fans among music insiders, including Tom Petty, who would later cover the song.

Its follow-up, Sweet Old World (Chameleon, 1992), also produced by Morlix, is a melancholy album dealing with themes of suicide and death. Williams' biggest success during the early 1990s was as a songwriter. Mary Chapin Carpenter recorded a cover of "Passionate Kisses" (from Lucinda Williams) in 1992, and the song became a smash country hit for which Williams received the Grammy Award for Best Country Song in 1994 (Carpenter also received a Grammy for her performance of the song). She duetted with Steve Earle on the song "You're Still Standin' There" from his album I Feel Alright. In 1991, the song "Lucinda Williams" appeared on Vic Chesnutt's album West of Rome.

Williams had garnered considerable critical acclaim, but her commercial success was moderate. Emmylou Harris said of Williams, "She is an example of the best of what country at least says it is, but, for some reason, she's completely out of the loop and I feel strongly that that's country music's loss." Harris recorded the title track from Williams's Sweet Old World for her career-redefining 1995 album, Wrecking Ball.

Williams also gained a reputation as a perfectionist and slow worker when it came to recording; six years would pass before her next album release, though she appeared as a guest on other artists' albums and contributed to several tribute compilations during this period.

Car Wheels on a Gravel Road

The long-awaited release, 1998's Car Wheels on a Gravel Road, was Williams' breakthrough into the mainstream and received a Grammy Award for Best Contemporary Folk Album. Containing the single "Still I Long for Your Kiss" from the Robert Redford film The Horse Whisperer, the album received wide critical notice and soon went gold. The single "Can't Let Go" also enjoyed considerable crossover radio play. Williams toured with Bob Dylan, the Allman Brothers and Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, and on her own, in support of the album. An expanded edition of the album, including three additional studio recordings and a second CD documenting a 1998 concert, was released in 2006.

In 1999, she appeared on Return of the Grievous Angel: A Tribute to Gram Parsons, duetting with David Crosby on the title track of the tribute album.

Williams followed up the success of Car Wheels with Essence (2001). This release features a less produced, more down-tuned approach both musically and lyrically, and moved Williams further from the country music establishment while winning fans in the alternative music world. She won the 2001 Grammy Award for Best Female Rock Vocal Performance for the single "Get Right with God", an atypically uptempo gospel-rock tune from the otherwise rather low-key release. The title track includes a contribution on Hammond organ by alternative country musician Ryan Adams.

Her seventh album, World Without Tears, was released in 2003. A musically adventurous though lyrically downbeat album, this release found Williams experimenting with talking blues stylings and electric blues.

Recent work

Lucinda Williams at a Lincoln Center Out Of Doors concert in New York City, August 2016

In 2006, Williams recorded a version of the John Hartford classic "Gentle on My Mind," which played over the closing credits of the Will Ferrell film Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby.

Williams was a guest vocalist on the song "Factory Girls" from Irish punk-folk band Flogging Molly's 2004 album, "Within a Mile of Home," and appeared on Elvis Costello's The Delivery Man. She sings with folk legend Ramblin' Jack Elliott on the track "Careless Darling" from his 2006 release "I Stand Alone."

In 2007, Williams released West, for which she wrote more than 27 songs. The album was released on February 13, 2007. It addresses her mother's death and a tumultuous relationship break-up. Vanity Fair praised it, saying "Lucinda Williams has made the record of a lifetime—part Hank Williams, part Bob Dylan, part Keith Richards circa Exile on Main St. ..."

In the fall of 2007, Williams announced a series of shows in Los Angeles and New York. Playing five nights in each city, she performed her entire catalog on consecutive nights. These albums include the self-titled Lucinda Williams, Sweet Old World, Car Wheels on a Gravel Road, Essence, and World Without Tears. Each night also featured a second set with special guest stars. Some of the many special guests included Steve Earle, Allison Moorer, Mike Campbell, Greg Dulli, E, Ann Wilson, Emmylou Harris, David Byrne, David Johansen, Yo la Tengo, John Doe, Chuck Prophet, Jim Lauderdale and Shelby Lynne. In addition, each night's album set was recorded and made available to the attendees that night. These live recordings are currently available on her website and at her shows.

The next album from Williams wrapped recording in March 2008. Titled Little Honey, it was released on October 14 of that year. It includes 13 songs—among them, "Real Love" and "Little Rock Star," the latter inspired by music celebrities in the press, like Pete Doherty and Amy Winehouse. "Little Honey" also includes a cover of AC/DC's "Long Way to the Top" and "Rarity," inspired by singer-songwriter Mia Doi Todd.[6]

In July 2008, though "Little Honey" had yet to be released, Paste listened to an advance copy and rated the duet between Williams and Elvis Costello on the song "Jailhouse Tears" as the No. 5 all-time greatest country/rock duets.

Williams released a cover of Shel Silverstein's "The Ballad of Lucy Jordan" in June 2010 as part of the Twistable, Turnable Man tribute album.[7]

Her 2008 concert appearance at the Catalyst, Santa Cruz, contained an announcement by the city's mayor that September 6 would henceforth be Lucinda Williams Day.

On March 1, 2011, Williams released the album Blessed.[8]

In September 2012, she was featured in a campaign called "30 Songs / 30 Days" to support Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide, a multi-platform media project inspired by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn’s book.[9]

In 2012 and 2013 Williams went on U.S. tour accompanied only by guitarist Doug Pettibone.[10]

On September 30, 2014, Williams released her eleventh studio album, Down Where the Spirit Meets the Bone, the first album on her Highway 20 Records label.[11]

In 2015, Williams provided backup vocals for the Don Henley song "Train in the Distance" on his album Cass County.[12]

On February 5, 2016, Williams released the album The Ghosts of Highway 20 and performed on the The Late Show with Stephen Colbert on February 17, 2016.


Charted songs

Year Song Adult Top 40 Triple A Album
2003 "Righteously" 36[13] World Without Tears
2008 "Real Love" 22[14] Little Honey


Year Album Chart positions[15]
1979 Ramblin'
1980 Happy Woman Blues
1988 Lucinda WilliamsA 39
1992 Sweet Old WorldB
1998 Car Wheels on a Gravel RoadC 65 144 69 5 60
2001 Essence 28 63 59 2 47
2003 World Without Tears 18 48 80 32 24 81
2005 Live @ The Fillmore 66 107 4 43
2007 West 14 30 53 5 10 29
2008 Little Honey 9 18 51 68 1 25
2011 Blessed 15 23 55 63 7 15 40
2014 Down Where the Spirit Meets the Bone 13 23 32 58 31
2016 The Ghosts of Highway 20 36 53 33 20 28 21
"—" denotes releases that did not chart


(all songs composed by Williams except as noted) 1. Big Red Sun Blues 2. Wild and Blue [John Sherrill] 3. Am I Too Blue 4. Crescent City 5. Nothing in Rambling [Memphis Minnie] 6. The Night's Too Long 7. Abandoned 8.I Just Want To See You So Bad 9. Side of the Road 10. Price to Pay 11. Disgusted [Lil' Son Jackson] 12. Something About What Happens When We Talk 13. Passionate Kisses 14. Changed the Locks 15. Happy Woman Blues

Guest and compilation appearances

Awards and nominations

Americana Music Honors & Awards

The Americana Awards are presented annually by the Americana Music Association and celebrate outstanding achievement in americana music. Williams is one of the most nominated artists in the history of the awards show with 12, including 2 wins.

Year Category Nominated Work Result
2003 Artist of the Year Lucinda Williams Nominated
2003 Song of the Year Righteously Nominated
2007 Artist of the Year Lucinda Williams Nominated
2007 Song of the Year Are You Alright? Nominated
2007 Album of the Year West Nominated
2011 Lifetime Achievement Award (songwriting) Lucinda WilliamsWon
2011 Album of the Year Blessed Nominated
2015 Song of the Year "East Side of Town" Nominated
2015 Album of the Year Down Where the Spirit Meets the Bone Won
2015 Artist of the Year Lucinda Williams Nominated
2016 Artist of the Year Lucinda Williams Nominated
2016 Album of the Year The Ghosts of Highway 20 Nominated

Grammy Awards

The Grammy Awards are awarded annually by the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences of the United States for outstanding achievements in the record industry. Williams has received three awards from 15 nominations.

Year Nominee/work Award Result
1993 Passionate Kisses (songwriter – performed by Mary Chapin Carpenter)[18][19] Best Country Song Won
1999 "Can't Let Go" Best Female Rock Vocal Performance Nominated
Car Wheels on a Gravel Road[1] Best Contemporary Folk Album Won
2002 "Essence" Best Female Pop Vocal Performance Nominated
"Get Right With God"[20] Best Female Rock Vocal Performance Won
"Cold, Cold Heart" Best Female Country Vocal Performance Nominated
Essence Best Contemporary Folk Album Nominated
2003 "Lately" (from Going Driftless – An Artists' Tribute to Greg Brown) Best Female Country Vocal Performance Nominated
2004 "Righteously" Best Female Rock Vocal Performance Nominated
World Without Tears Best Contemporary Folk Album Nominated
2008 "Come On" Best Solo Rock Vocal Performance Nominated
Best Rock Song Nominated
2010 Little Honey Best Americana Album Nominated
2011 "Kiss Like Your Kiss" (From True Blood) Best Song Written For Motion Picture, Television Or Other Visual Media Nominated
2012 Blessed Best Americana Album Nominated

See also


  1. 1 2 Lucinda Williams biography. AllMusic. Retrieved on October 7, 2008.
  2. "'Essence' of the South". CNN/TIME. Retrieved on October 7, 2008.
  3. Lewine, Edward. "Domains : Lucinda Williams : Country House". New York Times. Retrieved 2014-04-24.
  4. Buford, Bill (5 June 2000). "Delta Nights: A Singer's Love Afair with Loss". New Yorker. Retrieved 22 July 2014.
  5. Bukowski, Elizabeth. "Lucinda Williams" Salon. Retrieved on January 11, 2000.
  6. Gamboa, Glenn. "With 'Honey,' life is sweet for Lucinda Williams". PopMatters. October 13, 2008.
  7. Archived June 5, 2010, at the Wayback Machine.
  8. "OMN Best of 2011: Waterfront Blues Festival 2011: Lucinda Williams brings her 'Happy Woman' Blues to Portland". Oregon Music News. Retrieved 17 June 2013.
  9. "30 Songs / 30 Days for Half the Sky | Half The Sky". 2012-08-30. Retrieved 2012-09-17.
  10. "Lucinda Williams and Doug Pettibone at The Birchmere Music Hall". 2012-08-20. Retrieved 2013-05-24.
  11. Deming, Mark. "Down Where the Spirit Meets the Bone: Overview" AllMusic (Accessed October 5, 2014).
  12. Don Henley – Train in the Distance (Audio). 11 September 2015 via YouTube.
  13. Hot Adult Top 40 Tracks – Righteously. Billboard. Retrieved October 7, 2008.
  14. Triple A – Real Love. Billboard. Retrieved October 11, 2008.
  15. Artist Chart History Albums – Lucinda Williams. Billboard. Retrieved on October 7, 2008.
  16. Heatseekers – Sweet Old World. Billboard. Retrieved October 7, 2008.
  17. "Bruce Cockburn, Breakfast in New Orleans, Dinner in Timbuktu". Retrieved Oct 31, 2012.
  18. "Lucinda Williams chooses acclaim over fame any day". CNN. February 4, 1999.
  19. "The Grammy Winners". The New York Times. March 3, 1994.
  20. "Grammys 2002: The winners". BBC News. February 28, 2002.

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