Lucinda Williams (born January 26, 1953) is an American rock, folk, blues, and country music singer, songwriter and musician.
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. Her commercial breakthrough 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 distinctive style that still managed to remain consistent and commercial in sound. Car Wheels on a Gravel Road, which includes the Grammy nominated track "Can't Let Go", became Williams' greatest commercial success to date. The album was certified Gold by the RIAA and earned Williams a Grammy Award for Best Contemporary Folk Album, while being universally acclaimed by critics. Williams released the critically acclaimed Essence three years later, and the album also became a commercial success. One of the album's tracks, "Get Right With God," earned Williams the Grammy Award for Best Female Rock Vocal Performance in 2002.
Williams has released a string of albums since that have earned her more critical acclaim and commercial success. She has won 3 Grammy Awards, from 15 nominations, and received 2 Americana Awards, from 12 nominations. Additionally, Williams was named "America's best songwriter" by Time magazine in 2002, and ranked No. 97 on VH1's 100 Greatest Women in Rock & Roll in 1998.
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. 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. 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.
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, at times backed by a rock band and at others 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.
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.
In July 2008, though "Little Honey" had yet to be released, Paste magazine.com 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.
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.
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.
In 2012 and 2013 Williams went on U.S. tour accompanied only by guitarist Doug Pettibone.
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.
In 2015, Williams provided backup vocals for the Don Henley song "Train in the Distance" on his album Cass County.
On February 5, 2016, Williams released the album The Ghosts of Highway 20 and performed on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert on February 17, 2016.
In May 2017, Lucinda was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Music from Berklee College of Music during the 2017 Commencement Concert. In June, Rolling Stone named Williams one of the 100 Greatest Country Artists of All Time. Later that year, she re-recorded and expanded her 1992 "Sweet Old World" album, this time titled "This Sweet Old World".
|1989||"Changed the Locks"||—||—||Lucinda Williams|
|"Night's Too Long"||—||—|
|1992||"Hot Blood"||—||—||Sweet Old World|
|"Six Blocks Away"||—||—|
|1993||"Lines Around Your Eyes"||—||—|
|1998||"Can't Let Go"||—||14||Cars Wheels on a Gravel Road|
|"Right in Time"||—||—|
|"Get Right With God"||—||—|
|2003||"Righteously"||36||8||World Without Tears|
|2007||"Are You Alright?"||—||24||West|
|2008||"Real Love"||—||22||Little Honey|
|2014||"Burning Bridges"||—||—||Down Where the Spirit Meets the Bone|
|2016||"Just a Little More Faith and Grace"||—||—||The Ghosts of Highway 20|
|1980||Happy Woman Blues||—||—||—||—||—||—||—|
|1992||Sweet Old World||—||—||—||—||—||—||—|
|1998||Car Wheels on a Gravel RoadC||65||—||144||69||5||60||—|
|2003||World Without Tears||18||—||48||80||32||24||81|
|2005||Live @ The Fillmore||66||—||107||—||4||43||—|
|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|-|
|2017||This Sweet Old World||—||—||—||—||—||—||—|
|Dash denotes releases that did not chart.|
- A Did not chart when first released in 1988. When reissued in 2014 it reached number 39.
- B Reached number 25 on the Top Heatseekers chart.
- C Reached number 14 on the RPM Country Albums chart.
- 2005 - Lucinda Williams - Live from Austin, TX
- 2008 - Lucinda Williams — Live From Austin TX '89': her 13 Oct 1989 appearance on Austin City Limits (65 minutes)
Guest and compilation appearances
- 1988 - Various Artists - "Dark Side of Life" on A Town South of Bakersfield, Vols. 1 & 2
- 1990 - Various Artists - "Which Will" (first version) on True Voices
- 1990 - The Band of Blacky Ranchette - "Burning Desire" on Sage Advice
- 1992 - David Rodriguez - "Deportee (Plane Wreck at Los Gatos)" on The True Cross
- 1993 - Various Artists - "Pancakes" on Born to Choose
- 1993 - Various Artists - "Main Road" on Sweet Relief: A Benefit for Victoria Williams
- 1993 - Jimmie Dale Gilmore - "Reunion" on Spinning Around the Sun
- 1993 - Michael Fracasso - "Door No. 1" on Love & Trust
- 1994 - Various Artists - "You Don't Have Very Far to Go" on Tulare Dust: A Songwriter's Tribute to Merle Haggard
- 1994 - Various Artists - "Positively 4th Street" on In Their Own Words, Vol. 1 - Live Performances from the Bottom Line, New York City
- 1994 - Julian Dawson - "How Can I Sleep Without You" on How Human Hearts Behave
- 1994 - Lisa Mednick - "A Different Sky" on Artifacts of Love
- 1995 - Terry Allen - "Room to Room" and "Black to Black" on Human Remains
- 1995 - Kieran Kane - "This Dirty Little Town" on Dead Rekoning
- 1995 - Chris Gaffney - "Cowboys to Girls" on Loser's Paradise
- 1996 - Various Artists - "The Night's Too Long" on Lone Star: Original Soundtrack from the Film
- 1996 - Steve Earle - "You're Still Standing There" on I Feel Alright
- 1997 - RB Morris - "Glory Dreams" on Take That Ride
- 1997 - Ray Wylie Hubbard - "The Ballad of the Crimson Kings" on Dangerous Spirits
- 1997 - Donnie Fritts - "Breakfast in Bed" on Everybody's Got a Song
- 1997 - Bo Ramsey - "Desert Flower" on In the Weeds
- 1998 - Hayseed - "Precious Memories" and "Credo" on Melic
- 1998 - Robbie Fulks - "Pretty Little Poison" on Let's Kill Saturday Night
- 1998 - Various Artists - "Here in California" on Treasures Left Behind: Remembering Kate Wolf
- 1998 - Nanci Griffith - "Wings of a Dove" on Other Voices, Too (A Trip Back to Bountiful)
- 1998 - Various Artists - "Come to Me Baby" on Wolf Tracks: A Tribute to Howlin' Wolf
- 1999 - Bonepony - "Sweet Bye and Bye" on Traveler's Companion
- 1999 - Bruce Cockburn - "When You Give It Away", "Isn't That What Friends Are For?", "Look How Far" and "Use Me While You Can" on Breakfast in New Orleans, Dinner in Timbuktu
- 1999 - Julian Dawson - "How Can I Sleep Without You" on Spark
- 1999 - Leftover Salmon - "Lines Around Your Eyes" on The Nashville Sessions
- 1999 - Various Artists - "Return of the Grievous Angel" with David Crosby on Return of the Grievous Angel: Tribute to Gram Parsons
- 1999 - John Prine - "Wedding Bells"/"Let's Turn Back The Years" on In Spite of Ourselves
- 1999 - Little Milton - "Love Hurts" on Welcome to Little Milton
- 1999 - Evie Sands - "Cool Blues Story" on Women in Prison
- 1999 - Chip Taylor - "Through Their Mother's Eyes" and "If I Don't Know Love" on Seven Days in May...a love story
- 2000 - Sue Foley - "Empty Cup" on Love Comin' Down
- 2000 - Kevin Gordon - "Down to the Well" on Down to the Well
- 2000 - Chip Taylor - "Head First", "Annie on Your Mind" and "The Ghost of Phil Sinclair" on The London Sessions Bootleg
- 2001 - Kasey Chambers - "On a Bad Day" on Barricades & Brickwalls
- 2001 - Matthew Ryan - "Devastation" on Concussion
- 2001 - Various Artists - "Cold, Cold Heart" on Timeless: Hank Williams Tribute
- 2001 - Ralph Stanley and Friends - "Farther Along" on Clinch Mountain Sweethearts
- 2001 - Various Artists - "Nothin'" on A Tribute to Townes Van Zandt
- 2001 - Chip Taylor - "Could I Live with This" and "The Ship" on Black and Blue America
- 2001 - Various Artists - "Angels Laid Him Away" on Avalon Blues: A Tribute to the Music of Mississippi John Hurt
- 2002 - Various Artists - "Lately" on Going Driftless: An Artist's Tribute to Greg Brown
- 2003 - Various Artists - "Hang Down Your Head" on Crossing Jordan - Original Soundtrack
- 2003 - Terri Binion - "GayleAnne" on Fool
- 2003 - Various Artists - "Hard Times Killing Floor Blues" on Martin Scorsese Presents the Blues: The Soul of a Man
- 2003 - Colin Linden - "Don't Tell Me" on Big Mouth
- 2004 - Graham Parker - "Cruel Lips" on Your Country
- 2004 - Flogging Molly - "Factory Girls" on Within a Mile of Home
- 2004 - Elvis Costello - "There's a Story in Your Voice" on The Delivery Man
- 2004 - Willie Nelson - "Overtime" on It Always Will Be
- 2004 - Various Artists - "Pyramid of Tears" on Por Vida - A Tribute to the Songs of Alejandro Escovedo
- 2004 - Various Artists - "Down to the Well" with Kevin Gordon on No Depression: What It Sounds Like, Vol. 1
- 2004 - Tony Joe White - "Closing In on the Fire" on The Heroines
- 2005 - North Mississippi Allstars - "Hurry Up Sunrise" on Electric Blue Watermelon
- 2006 - Tim Easton - "Back to the Pain" on Ammunition
- 2006 - Ramblin' Jack Elliott - "Careless Darling" on I Stand Alone
- 2006 - P.F. Sloan - "Sins of a Family" on Sailover
- 2006 - John Brannen - "A Cut So Deep" on Twilight Tattoo
- 2006 - Anne McCue - "Hellfire Raiser" on Koala Motel
- 2006 - Various Artists - "Bonnie Portmore" on Rogue's Gallery: Pirate Ballads, Sea Songs, and Chanteys
- 2006 - Doug Pettibone - "Two of Us" and "She Belongs to Me" on The West Gate
- 2007 - Various Artists - "Honey Chile" on Goin' Home: A Tribute to Fats Domino
- 2007 - John Platania - "In Memory of Zapata" on Blues, Waltzes & Badland Borders
- 2008 - Various Artists - "Mamas Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys" on The Imus Ranch Record
- 2008 - Carrie Rodriguez - Mask of Moses on "She Ain't Me"
- 2009 - Susan Marshall - "Don't Let Me Down" on Little Red
- 2009 - Various Artists - "Positively 4th Street" (studio version) on The Village: A Celebration of the Music of Greenwich Village
- 2009 - M. Ward - "Oh Lonesome Me" on Hold Time
- 2010 - Various Artists - "Kiss Like Your Kiss" w/ Elvis Costello on True Blood - Music from the HBO Original Series Volume 2
- 2010 - Various Artists - "The Ballad of Lucy Jordan" on Twistable, Turnable Man: A Musical Tribute to the Songs of Shel Silverstein
- 2010 - Ray Davies - "Long Way from Home" on See My Friends (album)
- 2010 - Jimmy Webb - "Galveston" on Just Across The River
- 2010 - Various Artists - "Somebody Somewhere (Don't Know What He's Missin' Tonight)" on Coal Miner's Daughter: A Tribute to Loretta Lynn
- 2011 - Over the Rhine - "Undamned" on The Long Surrender
- 2011 - Michael Monroe - "Gone, Baby Gone" on Sensory Overdrive
- 2011 - Amos Lee - "Clear Blue Eyes" on Mission Bell
- 2011 - Blackie & The Rodeo Kings - "If I Can't Have You" on Kings & Queens
- 2011 - Steve Cropper - "Dedicated to the One I Love" and "When I Get Like This" on Dedicated: A Salute to the 5 Royales
- 2011 - Son of the Velvet Rat - "Moment of Fame" and "White Patch of Canvas" on Red Chamber Music
- 2011 - Tom Russell - "A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall" on Mesabi
- 2011 - Various Artists - "I'm So Happy I Found You" on The Lost Notebooks of Hank Williams
- 2012 - Marvin Etzioni - "Lay It on the Table" on Marvin Country!
- 2012 - Lil' Band o' Gold - "I'm Ready" on Lil' Band o' Gold Plays Fats
- 2012 - Walter Rose - "Driving South" on Cast Your Stone
- 2012 - Various Artists - "Tryin' to Get to Heaven" on Chimes of Freedom: The Songs of Bob Dylan Honoring 50 Years of Amnesty International
- 2012 - Various Artists - "God I'm Missing You" on KIN: Songs by Mary Karr & Rodney Crowell
- 2012 - Various Artists - "Hurt" on We Walk the Line: A Celebration of the Music of Johnny Cash
- 2012 - Various Artists - "That Time Of Night" on Oh Michael, Look What You’ve Done: Friends Play Michael Chapman
- 2012 - Various Artists - "The Farm" on The Inner Flame: A Rainer Ptacek Tribute
- 2012 - Various Artists - "Mississippi You're On My Mind" on Quiet About It: A Tribute To Jesse Winchester
- 2012 - Various Artists - "Whispering Pines" on Love for Levon
- 2012 - Various Artists - "House of Earth" on Woody Guthrie at 100: Live at the Kennedy Center
- 2013 - Various Artists - "Everything But the Truth" (first version) on The Lone Ranger: Wanted
- 2013 - Various Artists - "This Old Guitar" on The Music Is You: A Tribute to John Denver
- 2013 - Various Artists - "Partners in Crime" on Songs for Slim: Rockin' Here Tonight—A Benefit Compilation for Slim Dunlap
- 2014 - Chip Taylor - "Sleep with Open Windows" and "I'll Only Be Me Once" on The Little Prayers Trilogy
- 2014 - Various Artists - "The Pretender" on Looking into You: A Tribute To Jackson Browne
- 2015 - Buick 6 - "So Much Trouble in the World" on Plays Well with Others
- 2015 - G. Love and Special Sauce - "New York City" on Love Saves the Day
- 2015 - Don Henley - "Train in the Distance" on Cass County
- 2015 - Boz Scaggs - "Whispering Pines" (duet version) on A Fool to Care
- 2015 - Various Artists - "Met an Old Friend" on Remembering Mountains: Unheard Songs by Karen Dalton
- 2016 - Buddy Miller - "Hickory Wind" (duet version) on Cayamo Sessions at Sea
- 2016 - Various Artists - "It's Nobody's Fault But Mine" and "God Don't Never Change" on God Don't Never Change: The Songs of Blind Willie Johnson
- 2016 - Various Artists - "Hickory Wind" on The Life & Songs of Emmylou Harris
- 2017 - Ray Wylie Hubbard ft. Eric Church - "Tell the Devil I'm Getting There as Fast as I Can" on the album of the same name
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.
|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||Lucinda Williams||Won|
|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|
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 in three separate categories (country, folk and rock) from 15 nominations.
|1993||Passionate Kisses (songwriter - performed by Mary Chapin Carpenter)||Best Country Song||Won|
|1999||"Can't Let Go"||Best Female Rock Vocal Performance||Nominated|
|Car Wheels on a Gravel Road||Best Contemporary Folk Album||Won|
|2002||"Essence"||Best Female Pop Vocal Performance||Nominated|
|"Get Right With God"||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|
In popular culture
The American folk/rock band, Augustana, references the musician in the song, "Meet You There," on their studio album, Can't Love, Can't Hurt. The lyrics state, "Just put on Lucinda, Baby, and dance with me."
She is also referenced by the character, Kathleen "Kat" Hall played by Mireille Enos in the film If I Stay.