Following stroke, Lucinda Williams back with book and album

Streaming HUBApril 18, 2023

NEW YORK (AP) – Lucinda Williams is returning to the spotlight this spring with an autobiography, a new album and concerts around the world. Less than three years ago, there was genuine concern that her creative voice would go quiet.

In November 2020, the singer-songwriter suffered a stroke while getting ready to shower at her Nashville home. Her husband Tom Overby found her on the bathroom floor. Williams was taken to the hospital.

His recovery has been grueling and is not yet complete.

“I’m doing really well,” she told The Associated Press in a recent interview. “I can walk again, I don’t need to use a cane or anything. I wasn’t sure about that for a while.

She is delicate and moves slowly. He is unable to play the guitar, as persistent weakness in his left side makes it too painful to hold the frets. It should come as no surprise that Williams, who turns 70 in January, is taking things a step further.

Talk to her and her husband-manager, and it’s clear how much she needs to come back, how they see it as part of their rehabilitation. Music was once a teenager’s escape from a troubled home life, and she wasn’t about to go away. The flow of songs has not stopped.

Retire? “No,” she said. “Thoughts will cross my mind and I’ll think, I’m not ready for this.”

Williams’ singing voice emerged fully from the stroke, as some critics noted when she began performing again last summer. Tom Jones wrote in American Blues Scene after a concert last September, “Williams had a wonderful stage presence, told wonderful stories about what she was singing and her voice was fantastic.”

His autobiography, “Don’t Tell Anyone the Secrets I Told You,” was written before his stroke, and marks the first time he wrote a book.

“It’s partly because a lot of my songs tell stories, and people have always wanted to find out the stories behind the songs,” Williams said. “I feel like the book is almost my gift to the fans.”

When Williams met and married Overby, there were followers who seriously wondered whether it would hurt her songwriting, as her trail of failed relationships and fleeting crushes provided unusual fodder. The idea seemed outrageous, even sexist.

Yet seeing it all outlined in print is frankly breathtaking. Her taste in men—poets on a motorcycle, she describes it—didn’t lend itself to slow and steady relationships.

One can create a bingo card of past boyfriends, or close boyfriends, and memorable songs inspired by those personal stories: “Lake Charles,” “Pinola,” “Joy,” “Passionate Kiss,” “Still I Long for Your Kiss,” “Right in Time,” “Those Three Days,” “Wakin’ Up,” “Real Live Bleeding Fingers and Broken Guitar Strings,” etc.

There are also some bold-faced rock ‘n’ roll names. Readers will find lyrics about Ryan Adams and Paul Westerberg.

The meat of her story, however, is that of a survivor of mental illness.

Williams’ mother was sexually abused as a young girl and spent years in and out of mental institutions. Williams’ father used to say, “It’s not her fault, she’s not well.” The singer and two younger siblings grew up with a mother who was only half her age.

His father, the poet Miller Williams, was a traveling college professor who constantly moved the family to different cities. He apologized to his daughter when he first heard the line about a young girl in the back seat, “a little filth with tears,” in the song “Car Wheels on a Gravel Road”. She didn’t recognize that she was writing about herself.

It wasn’t all bad; Williams said the parties her father’s literary friends put to shame rock ‘n’ rollers.

When she was about 12 years old, one of her father’s classes moved to her home as an undergraduate “guardian”. “But it wasn’t easy.”

It is about that time that his own obsessive-compulsive disorder came to the fore. She began playing music, describing it as “the world I wanted to live in, a better world than the one I was in.”

Williams hopes that telling her story will mean something to people who have loved ones who have or have had mental health issues of their own.

“I was tired of tiptoeing around and walking on eggshells about mental health,” she said. “I wanted to talk about it more openly and not feel shy about talking about it.”

Musically, Williams was a classic late bloomer, told for years that she was too rock for country, too country for rock ‘n’ roll. She was 45 when her breakthrough and still bestselling album, “Car Wheels on a Gravel Road”, was released in 1998. She cycled through a number of odd jobs – one of them, delivering sausage samples at the supermarket, is a direct line to a wicked remark about all the men in the book who thought they knew better than her career. what to do with

Williams writes that she wanted to be like Bob Dylan or Neil Young, artists who could do a lot creatively. Many women are not given that opportunity.

“I’m starting to reach it,” she said. “If I haven’t reached it yet. I hope to achieve it.”

His upcoming album, “Stories from a Rock ‘n’ Roll Heart,” is in some ways a love letter to a musical life, memories of old bands, great jukeboxes, corner bars and two late rockers – Tom Petty and Replacements ‘Bob Stinson.

Songwriting was more difficult as Williams always worked out the melodies on guitar. He had to accept help in part from composer Jesse Malin. Her husband, usually involved with the business side of music, is a co-writer on every song and road manager Travis Stephens on six of them.

“At first I was a little hesitant,” Williams said, “but then I saw that Tom Waits and his wife had collaborated as songwriters. This made me feel more comfortable about it.

The album also includes vocal contributions from Bruce Springsteen and his wife, Patti Scialfa. The two hosted a dinner party that Williams and Overby attended on their second date in 2007.

“He has that Bruce sound that’s very unique and it’s on my records,” she said. “I’m still starstruck.”

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