Lucinda Williams Celebrates Three Decades of American Music

by Lisa Davis on April 3, 2019 in Living Texas, Music,
LucindaWilliams PhotoCred David McClister  TSWO e1554174295107

Lucinda Williams is on the road to celebrate the 20th anniversary of her highly-influential masterpiece, “Car Wheels On A Gravel Road.”

Once considered “too rock for country,” Lucinda Williams, a three-time Grammy winner, begins a select twelve-date, ten-city tour where she will perform her fifth studio album, “Car Wheels On A Gravel Road,” in its entirety, followed with songs from her long and celebrated career.

Williams has been carving out her own path for more than three decades and making an invaluable contribution to music along the way. She began songwriting at six-years-old, began playing the guitar at 12, and by the age of 17, she was playing in front of live audiences. Her musical style focused on a folk-rock-country blend and, in 1988, her single “Changed the Locks,” received nationwide airplay gaining Williams a legion of fans, including Tom Petty, who would later cover the song.

While Williams’s recorded output was sparse for a time, the work that emerged was invariably hailed for its indelible impressionism. It was 1998’s “Car Wheels on a Gravel Road,” which helped catapult Williams into mainstream music. Although the album didn’t make it further than Number 65 on the Billboard 200 chart, it received critical praise resulting in a Grammy for Best Contemporary Folk Album in 1999 for Williams. It is also listed Number 304 on Rolling Stone’s list of the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time.  

Born in Lake Charles, Louisiana, Lucinda Williams had been instilled with a “culturally rich, economically poor” worldview that found itself inside her music. Photo courtesy David McClister

The stories involving the making of “Car Wheels On A Gravel Road” and how long it took to create this renowned gem, is the stuff of legend. From the changing producers and re-recording to the revolving list of musicians, only further add to the folklore surrounding the album’s creation. Regardless of how it came to be, one thing remains true, Williams never wavered in her vision for this masterpiece, and what she envisioned changed the music scene on a multitude of levels.

The 13 songs filling the album are a tribute to Williams’s endless experiences and tumultuous youth. Her father, Miller Williams, was a poet and college professor whose changing jobs kept their family moving from one place to another. Specific locations around the United States became significant to Williams and remain a continued theme throughout her songs.

Lucinda Williams’ music is known for its trademark melancholy and southern Gothic starkness but it also contains elements of rays of light and hope strung in between. Photo courtesy David McClister

Williams’ work has received immense respect within the music industry. Fellow singer-songwriter Mary Chapin Carpenter scored a hit with her rendition of Williams’s song “Passionate Kisses” in 1994 that helped Williams win a Grammy in 1994 for Best Country Song.

Williams will be joined on tour by her incredible, long-time backing band Buick 6, featuring Butch Norton, David Sutton, and Stuart Mathis. The “Car Wheels On A Gravel Road” set will feature visual elements that enhance the storyteller-style Williams has used for her special performances. The influence of this album is immeasurable and considered a cornerstone of Americana.

In a long and celebrated career, Williams’ music is as genuine and soulful as when she began writing many years ago, and there are no signs of slowing down this music legend any time soon. 

Lucinda Williams’ tour is in San Antonio April 7, Austin April 8 and Fort Worth April 9.

Cover photo courtesy David McClister

Austinite Lisa Davis is the Editorial Assistant at Texas Lifestyle Magazine and a student at Concordia University Texas.