“All I can write about is my feelings and the world’s feelings,” says Lucinda Williams when talking about what inspired her for this new album. Given some of what she sings about on Good Souls Better Angels, her feelings have certainly been through the wringer. These feelings include having been the victim of discrimination affecting her career, and escaping from violent, abusive relationships, all of which have influenced her songwriting. “He pulls my hair and then he kicks me, next thing I swear, he wants to kiss me,” are lines written from bitter, personal experience.
This is an album which hits the ground flat-out running and it doesn’t stop for breath. It’s a rootsy, almost leftfield country rock-blues played with real attitude. There’s an almost relentless onsurge of lyrics telling of her feelings about how “the world’s falling apart, it’s like the apocalypse”. The album has rock at its core, with some crunching guitar work all the way through, and all sung with a voice which has seen and experienced life in all its many-splendored facets. Along with Patsi Cline she can sing ‘heartbreak, emotion and pain’ better than most of her peers. She’s the kind of woman whose face you would not want to get into. Here, she uses this voice to rage against and address many perceived injustices, both personal, social and political. She exclaims, “you might expect me to follow, but I ain’t falling in line” on opening track ‘You can’t rule me,’ which is an updated, reworking of Memphis Minnie’s 1937 song of the same name.
‘Man Without a Soul’ is a dig at the current President of the USA, singing “you bring nothing to the world, beyond a web of lying and cheating”. This is followed by ‘Big Black Train,’ a song about the onset of depression; “I can hear it coming down the track, but I don’t wanna get on board” is sung with a voice dripping with emotion. These are followed by songs about escaping domestic violence on ‘Wakin’ up’ (“she’s wakin’ up from a bad dream”) and ‘Bone of Contention’ (“you’re a thorn in my side, you’re a knife in my back”). Also being subjected to a barrage of bad news on ‘Bad News Blues’. But in the midst of all this, there are positives. ‘When the way is Dark’ is a song of hope, extolling people not to give up because ultimately no matter what, you’re not on your own. On ‘Good Souls,’ she asks to “Stay strong and fearless” because she isn’t afraid. This is an album from a woman who’s unafraid to walk on the edge and to sum up her feelings in song. It’s not an easy listen, and some of the lyrics may make you uncomfortable but, ultimately, the resilience of the human spirit is much in evidence here.
Good Souls, Better Angels is out now on Highway20/Thirty Tigers.