Category: Lucinda Williams

A Bob Dylan tribute album with 76 tracks and a 2012 mind-set

STORY: Bob Dylan tribute album honors Amnesty International too


The new  Bob Dylan tribute album, “Chimes of Freedom: The Songs of Bob Dylan Honoring 50 Years of Amnesty International,” which is being released today, salutes both the songwriter and the human rights organization for half a century of their respective work.

But the album itself has been assembled and is being marketed with a very 2012 mind-set.

Veteran record industry executive Jeff Ayeroff, who is leading the charge for the benefit project, with proceeds going to Amnesty International, fully expects that few potential customers will be equally passionate about all 76 tracks by more than 80 artists appearing on the four-CD set.

Artists that participated constitute a diverse aasemblage spanning the pop music spectrum, and a bit beyond it, from young pop hit makers Adele, Miley Cyrus and Kesha to indie rockers the Silversun Pickups and the Belle Brigade to veteran folkies Joan Baez and Pete Seeger, alt-country musicians Steve Earle, Lucinda Williams, Brett Dennen and the Avett Brothers, mainstream rockers Dave Matthews, Joe Perry and Maroon 5, hard-edged  rock band Queens of the Stone Age, world music acts Ziggy Marley, Mariachi El Bronx and Somalian rapper K’naan and punk bands Bad Religion and Rise Against.
  
"Whatever I’ve learned in the evolution of the album, I know people who pay $20 for this are not going to like every song,” Ayeroff said. “But there are several records inside this album: There’s a country record, there’s an all female record of women interpreting Bob Dylan songs, which is probably the most significant part of the album for me. It shows that Bob speaks with many voices for many people.

“There’s an adult pop record, there’s a peer record, there’s an alternative rock album, and the rock record,” continued Ayeroff, adding that in the iTunes age he anticipates some people who buy the download version will pick and choose which parts of it they pull down.

In addition to the official four-CD version that’s going to all the usual online and physical music retailers, Starbucks has created a two-CD version.

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Lucinda Williams on discovering Bob Dylan: 'This is what I want to do'

Lucinda Williams pays tribute to Bob Dylan as one of 80 artists on 'Chimes of Freedom,' an Amnesty International benefit project.
Lucinda Williams had no trouble pinpointing when and where Bob Dylan’s music came into her life when I called her to talk about her participation in the gargantuan new tribute album “Chimes of Freedom: Songs of Bob Dylan Honoring 50 Years of Amnesty International.”

She’s one of 80 artists who have recorded new versions of Dylan songs as a benefit for the human rights organization for the album that will be released Tuesday, Jan. 24. It's the subject of a feature in Sunday's Arts & Books section.

“1965,” she said without an instant's hesitation. “I was 12 1/2 years old, it was the year I started playing guitar. We were living in Baton Rouge, and my dad [poet Miller Williams] was teaching at LSU.

“One of his creative writing students came over to the house one day—I’ll never forget it--to meet with my dad. And he brought in a copy of this new record he was excited about. That was a time when somebody’s new album came out it would be like a big deal.  Everybody would be talking about it, and they’d bring it over to somebody’s house and everyone would listen to it.

“One of his students brought a copy of ‘Highway 61 Revisited’ and told my dad, ‘Oh my god, you’ve got to listen to this.’ But my dad wasn’t that impressed with Bob Dylan; even though he was a poet, he listened to [jazz saxophonist John] Coltrane and Hank Williams and Lightinin' Hopkins. The contemporary  folk-rock scene was more [intersting to] my generation and his students’ generation.

“The advantage was that I was turned on to quite a bit of music from these people who were in their 20s, turning me on to Dylan and the Doors. This guy set the album down and I put it on and listened to it.

"Even though I was only 12 1/2 and I didn’t understand all the lyrics, it didn’t matter. What struck me was the blend of traditional folk music and these lyrics that seemed to come from both of those worlds: my dad’s world of creative writing and the folk music world I had been steeped in through people like Peter, Paul & Mary, Gordon Lightfoot, the traditional folk songs [recorded by] John and Alan Lomax, Woody Guthrie and Pete Seeger, Joan Baez.

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Album review: Lucinda Williams' 'Blessed'

Lucinda It’s been rough being a Lucinda Williams fan for the past decade; we’ve listened as the singer, one of the great songwriters of the 1990s, floundered with albums that failed to measure up to the stuff of her legend. The classic 1988-98 triumvirate of “Lucinda Williams,” “Sweet Old World” and “Car Wheels on a Gravel Road” presented an artist whose best songs rivaled the great American songwriters who have drawn from the wellspring of blues, country, folk and rock to create perfection: Bob Dylan, Townes Van Zandt, Gram Parsons and Bonnie Raitt. Certainly some of Williams’ ‘00s output contained good songs, but after such strong work early in her career, a combination of lazy songwriting and lethargic energy suggested something was amiss. Whether it was bad relationships, bad liquor or just overall bad vibes, it seemed that her muse had somehow become debilitated.

So “Blessed,” one of the best albums she’s ever released, comes as a relief. Produced by Don Was (who produced Raitt’s “Nick of Time”), the dozen songs on the album tackle complicated emotions with a deft touch to create profoundly moving moments. Whether it’s the sense of loss in “Copenhagen,’ about the instance in which she learns about the death of a friend, or “To Be Loved,” a tender ballad that every mother should sing to her children before bedtime (“You weren’t born to be mistreated/You weren’t born to be misguided/You were born to be loved”), Williams’ writing on “Blessed” is seamless. As on her classic albums, the songwriter mixes it up with electric guitar songs (“Buttercup,” “Seeing Black”), personalized protest songs (“Soldier’s Song”), and touching, gorgeous ballads (“Don’t Know How You’re Living,” “Sweet Love”). Combined, the result is a dynamic, human album, one that’s easy to fall in love with. Highly recommended.

--Randall Roberts

Lucinda Williams
“Blessed”
(Lost Highway)
Four stars

One song: Lucinda Williams' "Copenhagen"

6a00d8341c630a53ef010536132ea4970b-800wiIt’s a song about wonder, about loss, about heartbreak — about a moment. But Lucinda Williams can tell the story of “Copenhagen,” a song from her return-to-form new album, “Blessed,” which comes out March 1 on Lost Highway, better than anyone, which she does in a series of perfectly crafted lines.

She hears bad news while standing outside in Copenhagen. It’s snowing hard, and the snowflakes seem to attack her, “covering my face in fine powdery mist and mixing in with my tears,” she sings in that heartbreakingly graceful voice, “and I’m 57 but I could be 7 years old ’cause I will never be able to comprehend the expansiveness of what I’ve just learned.”

It’s here that the chorus comes in, and the listener begins to understand: This is a death, and she’s just hearing of it, and attempting to capture one of those vivid moments that makes the world glow. Williams does her best to explain the expansiveness: “You have disappeared/You have been released/You are flecks of light/You are missed.” Or is it mist?

For Williams die-hards, “Copenhagen” is one of those gentle, mournful songs that the L.A.-based songwriter excels at, songs about lost souls living just outside the edges of redemption, struggling to live right but ultimately failing, as in “Little Angel, Little Brother” and “Drunken Angel.” On “Copenhagen,” as on much of “Blessed,” she connects words and ideas together delicately and with great precision, like she’s building a rose petal by petal, leaf by leaf. The album comes out March 1 on Lost Highway Records.

—Randall Roberts

Photo: Lucinda Williams performing at the Wiltern in 2008. Credit. Lawrence K. Ho / Los Angeles Times

Hardbitten blues for the lovers of Los Angeles: Lucinda Williams at the Bardot

Lucinda Clad in all black and standing at the center of a blood-red room, Lucinda Williams cracked a rare smile. “Sorry to be so dark on Valentine’s Day,” she said, after tearing through a new song that questions the motives for a suicide, but no one in the audience seemed in need of an apology. The devoted fans, KCRW insiders and other begrudging romantics at Bardot’s weekly School Night party were intently focused on Williams and her tear-stained blues. Playing an hourlong set, Williams, with her three-piece band, trotted out slow-burn anthems for the weary, the dispossessed, and the brokenhearted, but most of all for those who know how to pick themselves up off the barroom floor and love all over again.

In the hands of Williams, love pushes us toward new states of recognition, a deeper sense of self and mission. “You Were Born,” a drifting bit of desert motel noir, finds her reading off a list of conditions, including disgrace, slavery and abandonment, that we weren’t born for –- only to counter them with the simple, repeated gospel that “you were born to be loved.” On the title track of her 10th album, Williams sounds as though she’s found her wisdom in both a pint of whiskey and a pack of worn tarot cards. Everyone she encounters in the song offers their blessings: the watchmaker, the homeless, the girl selling roses, the prisoner who knew how to be free.

For the dusty and dreamy “Awakening,” Williams was joined onstage by Blake Mills, a 24-year-old guitarist from Malibu who offered elliptical loops of slide guitar. On “Honey Bee,” a track from 2008’s “Little Honey,” Mills traded runs that verged on speed metal with Val McCallum, the other guitarist scrapping on stage.

Whatever wisdom Williams proffered was also served with a squirt of hot sauce in the eye. The Louisiana native kicked off her set with “Buttercup,” a wry kiss-off to a freeloading lover looking for her forgiveness, and she closed with the more ferocious version of that sentiment. On “Joy,” from her 1998 breakthrough “Car Wheels on a Gravel Road,” Williams shrieked in her shredded, revenant voice, “You took my joy; I want it back!” Have you dated Lucinda Williams? Consider yourselves warned, ex-vampires.

-- Margaret Wappler

Photo taken by Lauren Strasnick with the romantic Hipstamatic application on her ultra-futuristic iPhone.

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