Release Date: Jan 14, 2014
Record label: Thirty Tigers
Genre(s): Alt-Country, Americana
This 1988 classic was Lucinda Williams’ third album, but it might as well have been her debut. The self-titled set put her on the singer/songwriter map with near unanimous critical acclaim as she captured the essence of her influences in blues, folk, Cajun and country, distilling them into 11 magnificent originals and one significant cover. This 25th anniversary reissue returns the archetypal recording back into print (after being unavailable for a decade).
Conventional wisdom tells us Lucinda Williams put out the most searing and true album of her career in 1998 with “Car Wheels on a Gravel Road.” Not true. Great as “Car Wheels” may be, Williams issued an even more lacerating, beautiful and influential album 10 years earlier— her self-titled Rough Trade debut. Proof lies in this reissue of “Lucinda Williams,” timed for its 25th (!) anniversary.
It took singer-songwriter Lucinda Williams eight years to get out her third album, a self-titled affair on the Rough Trade label that featured mostly original songs. But it was worth the wait. Lucinda Williams from 1988 was the kind of recording that makes an impact: other musicians loved it, with Mary Chapin Carpenter rerecording “Passionate Kisses” to huge acclaim, Tom Petty covering “Changed the Locks”, and Emmylou Harris taking on “Crescent City”.
Williams’ second collection of original material, originally released in 1988 and commonly known as “The Rough Trade Album”, after the label that released it in the UK, has been out of print for more than a decade. Its return is to be celebrated, not just for the bonus disc of a previously unavailable live show, but because it illustrates the formation of a blueprint (tough country-rock, literate confessional lyrics) that would serve Williams well for the next quarter century. Two of its tracks reached a wider audience in cover form; Mary Chapin Carpenter scored a big US hit with Passionate Kisses and Tom Petty took on the defiant swamp-blues of Changed The Locks on his soundtrack album to the film She’s The One.
Rough Trade Records was home for post-punk bands such as the Smiths, but in 1988 the London indie label released a self-titled album by the Louisiana-born Lucinda Williams, in a move that gave country music – and the new hybrid style, Americana – its biggest boost among British rock audiences since Joe Ely toured with the Clash. The album has been unavailable for a decade, but is now rereleased on Williams' own label, along with 20 live tracks, 14 of them previously unreleased, from a concert in Holland in 1989. And it deserves to be heard again.
It's fitting that Lucinda Williams' 1988 LP was initially released by England's Rough Trade, home to the Smiths and the Raincoats – it deserves as much credit as any album for spearheading the so-called Americana movement, country's post-punk equivalent. Finally back in print, every song burns hot as ever: the indie jangle-twang of "Passionate Kisses" (which won a Country Song of the Year Grammy via Mary Chapin Carpenter's inferior version), the incandescent sexiness of "Like a Rose," and "The Night's Too Long," which could nearly be an outtake from Bruce Springsteen's Nebraska. The live bonus disc features non-LP tracks (including an early version of "Something About What Happens When We Talk"), a crack band with guitarist Gurf Morlix and a riveting singer, fully formed.
Back in the late ‘80s, I was a voracious reader of music magazines. Rolling Stone and Musician were the biggies (Blurt not existing yet, of course), though I also cherrypicked the reviews sections of various other mags, from Spin to Playboy to People. (Working in a bookstore helped immeasurably in that regard.) Growing up in a small town in Texas, it was the only way to find out about new music that wasn’t classic rock, top 40 pop or mainstream country.
Lucinda Williams (Lucinda Williams Records) Truly great albums might go in and out of print – this one was unavailable for 10 years – but they seldom go out of style. Lucinda Williams released two blues-heavy efforts before this, but this self-titled album, released on UK indie Rough Trade in 1988, began her journey to becoming a household name. In a newly remastered 2-disc edition, Lucinda Williams blossoms all over again.