“The world’s falling apart – it’s like the apocalypse” spits the accompanying press release to Lucinda Williams’ latest record Good Souls, Better Angels. It sounds like something that could’ve been written about these strange times we’re living through, but it actually predates it. On the third track, ‘Man Without a Soul’, she takes aim at Donald Trump, the man who the above statement was actually written about. “You’re a man without truth” she begins the song by singing with quiet anger and fierce intent.
Lucinda Williams has been releasing albums since 1979, the year in which I was born. Having spent last year touring Car Wheels on a Gravel Road on its 20th anniversary, her latest record sees her reunited with Car Wheels producer Ray Kennedy and continues a late-career renaissance. Over the course of an hour, this is unsympathetic and brutal at times, which brings to mind Neil Young at his most barbed. The pace does slow down sometimes, no more so than on ‘Big Black Train’, a lament about death and the train that none of us can avoid. The most beautiful moment on the album comes on the nearly six-minute ‘Shadows and Doubts’ which warns the listener about the “dark new days” where there’s “so many ways to crush you”
The whole album seems very prescient in a world of uncertainty, Williams has certainly stumbled across channelling the fears that a lot of us are going through. It’s also an album that rewards repeated listening, as it’s managed to grow on me every time I’ve heard it. ‘Bone of Contention’, which she debuted on her UK tour last year, is probably the stand-out track (though that’s managed to change every time I’ve listened). Williams spits out the lyrics channeling an almost Courtney Love/PJ Harvey vibe talking about someone who is the salt in her wound and the knife in her back whilst pretending to love God.
Williams is ably supported throughout the album by her backing band of Stuart Mathis, David Sutton and Butch Norton. The album is cut straight from the rock of the Mississippi Delta, wears its anger on its sleeve and is unapologetic in both its delivery and subject matter. Williams is a songwriter with few peers and she’s managed to deliver an album that will be the soundtrack for many through this crisis and beyond.