Review: Lucinda Williams: ‘Stories From a Rock n Roll Heart’

Lucinda Williams
Stories From a Rock n Roll Heart
(Highway 20/Thirty Tigers)
4 1/2 out of 5 stars

Videos by American Songwriter

If there was any doubt that Lucinda Williams has a rock ’n’ roll heart, it’s put to rest by not just the name of her first collection of originals since her 2020 project, Good Souls Better Angels, but in the Americana singer/songwriting icon’s authentic, often raw, approach and uncompromising vision.

The album is especially remarkable given the circumstances around its creation. First, Williams’ home was damaged by a tornado. She then suffered a stroke in late 2020, impairing her ability to walk and play guitar, the instrument she composes on.

But Williams collaborated with husband/co-producer Tom Overby and called in longtime friend Jesse Malin and road manager Travis Stephens to help construct these 10 extraordinary tracks. It’ll only take 10 seconds into the rollicking Stones-influenced opening, “Let’s Get the Band Back Together,” to realize that far from being hobbled by her health, Williams, now 70, has emerged stronger, feistier, and more resilient. 

A crack band featuring Heartbreakers drummer Steve Ferrone, veteran guitarist Doug Pettibone, and ex-Stevie Ray Vaughan keyboardist Reese Wynans provides muscle and a musical pulse shifting from the creeping swamp of “This Is Not My Town” to the bittersweet ballad “Where the Song Will Find Me” and the heartland strum of “Stolen Moments,” a tribute to Tom Petty. The songs crackle with sturdy, robust melodies, driven by Williams’ distinctively husky vocals. Her singing has always been suffused with restrained passion, but she taps into something even deeper here. 

It’s impossible not to be moved by the frayed narrative “Hum’s Liquor,” a tribute to The Replacements’ fallen co-founder Bob Stinson, or “Jukebox,” where she sings with an aching voice how the titular machine cures her loneliness.

These stories resonate with strength and an irrepressible spirit few other artists can summon. Williams’ ability to persevere over issues that would sideline lesser talents and create music this impressive is a testament to the vitality of her rock ’n’ roll heart.

Photo by Danny Clinch / All Eyes Media

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