Lucinda Williams: Good Souls Better Angels
It’s the matchlessness of the voice itself that grabs you every time Lucinda Williams opens her mouth. No matter how long you’ve been hearing it, it still arrives as a surprise, coming at you as if it has a mind of its own. Williams doesn’t so much sing her words in the conventional sense as she allows them to escape, like they’re catching their own breath after a particularly harrowing chase from a couple of bad guys. Her delivery has been called slurring, and Williams herself has been quoted as saying, “My voice doesn’t have enough air around it,” but whatever it is, it’s a thrill—intoxicating and chilling and impossible to ignore. When it’s applied to songs like the ones on Good Souls Better Angels, her first set of new material in four years, it serves as a reminder that Williams is an American treasure, one of our most reliably gifted and original singer-songwriters. She’s got plenty she wants to say on this one, most notably on “Man Without a Soul,” a scathing indictment of— well, who else could it be, really?—a certain orange-faced resident of Washington, D.C. “All the money in the world will never fill that hole,” she declares in her offhanded, matter-of-fact manner, devoid of anger yet defiant and definitive. Other tracks, including some cowritten by her manager and husband Tom Overby, are commentaries: the album-opening, self-explanatory “You Can’t Rule Me” is a chugging blues cut that treads on more familiar Williams territory, while the blistering “Bone of Contention,” the harrowing “Wakin’ Up” and the insistent “Pray the Devil” are each a perfect match for that voice and the appropriately gritty and complementary accompaniment of the singer’s road band.