The Wise Blood of Lucinda Williams

The Americana songstress wrestles with her Southern legacy and familial past on "The Ghosts Of Highway 20."

Photos by David McClister Photos by David McClister

A few years ago Lucinda Williams’ tour bus pulled out of Macon, Georgia, after a show at the Cobb Theatre and then turned west from Atlanta. As she looked out the window watching Interstate 20’s bright green exit signs flash past against the black sky, it was as if she saw the ghosts of her past, pale and translucent, walking along the highway shoulder.

Much of her life has been strung out along that east-west corridor through the old Confederacy. Macon was where she first went to elementary school and first heard the blues. Her sister Karyn was born in Jackson, Mississippi, and her brother Robert in Vicksburg, Mississippi; their mother Lucille is buried in Monroe, Louisiana. Lucinda’s father, the poet Miller Williams, taught writing at colleges in Macon, Jackson, Baton Rouge and New Orleans. In her mid-20s, Lucinda lived in Austin.

When she mentioned all this to her husband Tom Overby, he suggested that she write a song called “The Ghosts of Highway 20.” Until she got her arms around those ghosts, he suggested, they would continue to haunt her. Ever so reluctantly she agreed. “Writing to assignment is really hard,” she says, “but it’s good discipline, so I’m trying to do it more. Finally something clicked and I said, ‘Okay I’ve got it.’”

The result became the title song of her new album, The Ghosts Of Highway 20, her second consecutive two-CD set, following 2014’s Down Where The Spirit Meets The Bone. “I know... Sign In to Keep Reading

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