Lucinda Williams' uncanny ability to create songs that are at once poetic and emotive has won her a loyal following and an enormous amount of praise.
One of the greatest lyricists alive, she's worshipped by aspiring singer/songwriters and respected by the best in the business.
For more than two decades, Williams has excelled at folk-rock tunes about falling in love, making love and having good times in the Crescent City.
But her most memorable performances are those songs that richly detail doomed relationships, loneliness, little rock stars battling demons or a small town's reaction to a suicide.
Few vocalists can deliver a love-sick lament as convincingly as Williams, who sings in a singular, unhurried manner, her Southern drawl flowing through the speakers like teardrops.
She can also spit acid in the face of a man who has done her wrong. Venom courses through her voice as she tells an ex she has changed the locks. And the F-bomb has perhaps never been put to better use in popular music than when Williams addresses the lover who promised forever and split after just those three days.
A multiple Grammy winner named "America's best songwriter" by Time magazine in 2002, Williams has written songs covered by Tom Petty, Willie Nelson, Emmylou Harris, Mary Chapin Carpenter, John Mellencamp and numerous others.
So it came as no surprise when she received the Lifetime Achievement award for songwriting at the Americana Music Association's 10th Annual Honors and Awards show this month in Nashville. Although honored by the accolade, Williams wasn't looking forward to accepting it.
"I'm all nervous," she said during a phone interview with the Herald just before the ceremony. "I have to give a big speech and I don't know what to say other than Â'thanks everybody.'"
Songwriter supreme Lucinda Williams worried about a silly acceptance speech?
"I know, right?" she said with a laugh.
Williams proved she has plenty of creative juice left with the March release of "Blessed." Critically acclaimed just like every album she has issued since her 1988 self-titled masterpiece, "Blessed" has been selling well, reaching No. 15 on the Billboard 200.
The album kicks off with the rocking kiss-off "Buttercup" and includes the deftly handled "Soldier's Song," as well as the stirring valentine "Sweet Love."
But the one that grabs hold the tightest, begs for repeated listens and turns despair into beauty is "Copenhagen."
"And I'm 57 but I could be 7 years old," Williams sings. "Because I will never be able to comprehend the expansiveness of what I've just learned."
It's a brilliant lyric about being on tour in Denmark and receiving the news that her longtime manager and friend Frank Callari had died.
"I just wanted to express that feeling that regardless of age, when something like that hits you, that when somebody dies you're so close to, it completely blows you away," Williams said.
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