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Lucinda Williams photo by Alan Messer
Lucinda Williams


available June 5, 2001

Lucinda Williams' sixth album is highly anticipated, following her Gold 1998 Grammy winning "Car Wheels on a Gravel Road". "Essence", a collaboration with Charlie Sexton and Bo Ramsey, is more than worthy of taking Williams to the next level, with a blend of outstanding songs, performances and production. An artist of undisputed musical integrity with a career filled with critical applause, Williams is poised to again garner praises from both fans and media.

Touring through the summer to support the single album, Williams begins with the New Orleans Jazzfest 5/03 on to Nashville's River Stages with Bob Dylan, a June 4th booking on Letterman, etc. The first single from the album, "Essence", goes to radio on 4/16.


The wait is over. Here it is. Lucinda Williams new album. Legendary producer Joe Boyd declares, "Car Wheels On A Gravel Road" is the Blonde on Blonde of the 90's." Whether time proves him right or not, you'll find this record an undeniably seminal work that secures Lucinda Williams' status as both a singer and songwriter.

For 20 years, Williams has haunted us with both talents. She's a musician's musician. Her songs have been covered by everyone from Emmylou Harris to Tom Petty. Mary Chapin-Carpenter's rendition of Williams' "Passionate Kisses" earned them both Grammys in 1994. Recently Lucinda Williams' achingly sweet voice--3 parts honey, 2 parts bourbon-has done duets on albums by Buddy Miller, Terry Allen and Steve Earle.

Earle himself is one of the co-producers of Car Wheels On A Gravel Road and can be considered one of the driving forces behind the album's magnificence. Williams reports, "I recorded a rough version of this album three years ago in Texas. Then I came back to Nashville and heard the work Steve did with [producer] Ray Kennedy. It blew me away. For ages I'd struggled with getting my vocals down, and I was amazed at the sound Ray got. So Williams and her band went into a Nashville studio with Earle and Kennedy to cut a "couple" of tracks and "see what happens." Ha! The sound was so spectacular that Williams recorded all her songs over. "Steve really added that driving unity," Williams says. "He was playing rhythm guitar and everything just had this edge that it was lacking before."

After they finished the basic tracks, Steve Earle had to bow out because of scheduling conflicts. Williams went to Los Angeles, and co-produced the over-dub sessions with Roy Bittan, of Bruce Springsteen's E-Street Band. The finished record was originally intended to be released on Rick Rubin's American Recordings label, but when Rubin entered negotiations to sell the label last year, Mercury jumped at the chance to be the ones to release Car Wheels On A Gravel Road.

Final mastering on the album was finished only last spring-coincidentally on the very night that a tornado raged through downtown Nashville. That storm becomes a fitting psychic indication of the power of these thirteen tracks.

Who Is Lucinda Williams?

Many of the songs on Car Wheels On A Gravel Road, from "Lake Charles" to "Jackson," form an autobiographical travelog of this singer's wanderings. Lucinda Williams was born in Lake Charles, Louisiana, but her college professor-father moved her family all over the south. "I lived in Jackson, Vicksburg, Atlanta, Macon," she lists, "Baton Rouge, New Orleans, and Fayetteville, Arkansas, Mexico City and Santiago, Chile."

Her adult life has been just as itinerate-she's lived everywhere from Texas to California to Nashville. She assures everyone that she intends to linger in Nashville for awhile living two doors down from Emmylou Harris. But whether Williams stays put or not, these past few months have stabilized her career, putting in perspective her twenty years in music. Last May, Lucinda Williams was part of the fifty year anniversary of Folksway Records, and her Rough Trade label recording from the 1980's were reissued on Koch International in early 1998.

The Folkways anniversary completed a full circle for Williams. "I was living in New York the year, "Ramblin' On My Mind" was released in '79," she reports. How did Lucinda Williams first record on Folkways? "An old friend of mine in New Orleans who had put out a record on the label called, God, Guts and Guns suggested 'You should make a record for Folkways too.' So I sent them a demo from Arkansas and they send me back this one page contract, 'Here's $250 -- go make a record.' So I went to Jackson, Mississippi. A friend of the family knew one of the engineers at Malico Studios, so we went in and recorded it in one afternoon. In 1980, I later did another one for Folkways, called Happy Woman Blues."

After Folkways, Williams bounced between Austin and Houston. "I wasn't really trying to get a recording contract," she says. "I didn't think in those terms. I didn't know the first thing about the music business. I was trying to make ends meet and keep my head above water and get gigs." Then in '84 she moved to Los Angeles. "I went to L.A. to play a show and ended up staying there. That's when I jumped into the whole music business arena and started getting attention from other record companies. But at the time they still didn't know what to do with me."

Rough Trade had a hunch and in '88 released her self-titled Lucinda Williams as well as several EP's in the years to follow. It is this music that Koch International has just released on one disc.

Since her Rough Trade days, Williams released Sweet Old World in 1992 on another ill-fated label, Chameleon Records. She then went to Australia to tour with Rosanne Cash and Mary Chapin-Carpenter (which was when Carpenter decided to cover "Passionate Kisses"). "Then I got the Grammy in '94," Williams says. "I bought a house in Nashville, which was very time consuming. Then I moved back to Austin, but got down there and decided it wasn't the same. You can't go home again."

The singer is wrong, music is Lucinda Williams' home only she has no airs about her musical talent. Steve Earle remarked, "Lucinda is the last one to know how damn good she is." He's right. "I'm still surprised," she says, "the way you see yourself is so different from how others do. "Wow you want me to write a song? You'd like me to sing?'" With her new album, Car Wheels On A Gravel Road, Lucinda Williams has come into her own as a songwriter/singer.

Lucinda Williams Resources: