The first time I played the new Lucinda Williams album, I started to think about my late colleague Noel Coppage. Noel used to keep a list in these pages of what he called "Real People," an appellation that had nothing whatsoever to do with the early-Eighties TV show; instead, he was talking about performers, specifically musicians. To my knowledge, Noel never heard Lucinda Williams, although she's knocked around for over a decade, but if he had, or if he'd lived to hear her remarkable eponymous debut album, I'm sure he would have added Williams to his small, select list. This woman is as real as it gets.
There are moments in Lucinda Williams that verge on the merely ordinary. "Crescent City," for example, rocks along quite nicely and is obviously felt, but it's a fairly prosaic reminiscence nonetheless. Mostly, though, the music will make you laugh ("Changed the Locks") or break your heart ("Abandoned"), sometimes both in the same song ("Passionate Kisses"). Even in an era when it's suddenly, suspiciously, fashionable to be a smart solo woman in rock, Lucinda Williams is clearly something special, and I suggest you hear it immediately. Meanwhile, Noel, I think we've got another Real Person here.
As I said up top, I have a good reason for foisting the above on you.
To wit: Late last week, out of the blue, I got an e-mail from an associate producer at CBS Sunday Morning who wanted to know if I in fact had written the line "She has the kind of voice that suggests the rise and fall of empires as witnessed through the bottom of a shot glass."
Because they were working on an upcoming profile of Williams, and they were thinking of quoting me on air. Ain't that a kick in the pants?
Anyway, he assured me he'd let me know if, in fact, my little bon mot made the cut (the segment is due to run in a couple of weeks). And of course, I'll let you guys know as well.
Can you tell I'm insufferably pleased about this?