Today marks the reissue of Lucinda Williams’s self-titled album – a significant moment for me and, I suspect, for many others who have followed her since the beginning of her career. Not only has it made me revisit the music itself to discover just how good it is; it’s also made me acutely aware of the frightening speed with which twenty five years can pass.
I first came across Lucinda Williams in 1990 when a friend (now a very famous writer) gave me a compilation tape. It’s a fantastic tape and I still have it, giving it the occasional play on the old cassette player I’ve held on to in the hope that there might some day be a big cassette revival. On one side is the first Guy Clark album ‘Old No 1’ (he said ‘if you don’t like this, there’s no hope for you’ and he was right) and on the second is ‘A Country Compilation’. Here’s the running order – Darden Smith, Kimmie Rhodes, Nanci Griffith, John Prine, Jimmie Dale Gilmore. And then comes Lucinda. She was in pretty distinguished company but, even so, her voice stood out in a strangely compelling way – it seemed to come from somewhere else entirely. I tracked down the album (yes, another cassette) and listening to ‘Lucinda Williams’ in the weeks and months that followed marked the beginning of some significant journeys.
The first was into all kinds of interesting country music, music which has been very good company over the last twenty five years. The second was through many dark nights when I would pace up and down with a crying baby on my shoulder trying to soothe him back to sleep. ‘Passionate Kisses’ (a song aptly followed by one called ‘The Night’s Too Long’) was the one which most frequently did the trick. The adult that baby has grown into has often questioned my actions, wondering whether regular nightly exposure to Lucinda’s passionate kisses at such a formative stage might have caused him lasting damage. The jury’s out.