Lucinda Williams will visit the Ponte Vedra Concert Hall on Wednesday, January 31. The songwriting legend, who turned 70 last year, suffered a stroke in 2020, leaving her unable to play guitar. But during her show here in Northeast Florida, Williams will be on the mic in a big way: in an interview last year, she told Vanity Fair, “I’ll be singing my a** off.”
To prepare your a** for singing along, here are five essential Lucinda Williams songs you need to know.
“Side of the Road”
This was one of the first songs I heard by Lucinda Williams, thanks to Waxahatchee’s Katie Crutchfield, who’s been spreading the Lucinda Williams gospel to her fans by way of cover songs, interviews, and denim jackets.
It was Crutchfield’s jacket that first brought me to the song “Side of the Road,” its embroidered message taken from a gorgeous couplet of lyrics:
I wanna know the touch of my own skin
Against the sun, against the wind
The song does everything Lucinda Williams is known for: subtle twang, heartfelt singing and, most importantly, spare lyrics that tell a profound story: in this case, the story of a woman who’s trying to find herself again while in love.
“Fruits of My Labor”
This song has always felt like a writing prompt to me, and I meant that in the best way. Williams takes the old cliché, “Fruits of My Labor,” and turns it literal, describing the “tangerines and persimmons and sugarcane, grapes and honeydew melons” of her labor. Cheeky lines paired with tremolo-raddled guitar made for an instant classic with this one.
“Changed the Locks”
Another writing prompt: write about all the things you could change after a breakup. Your lock, your number, your car, your clothes—Williams begins with the obvious. But throughout the song, the lyrics grow more extreme, claiming to go so far as to change “the tracks underneath the train” and even “the name of this town.”
“Can’t Let Go”
Williams’ voice sounds like she’s singing right in your ears in this song, backed by an upbeat and bluesy collection of guitars. It’s a message we’ve heard in countless songs before—being unable to move on from someone—but Williams delivers it with a vulnerability that still manages to be tough.
Mary Chapin Carpenter’s 1992 cover of this song might be better known than Williams’ original, which has my heart forever. These lines never fail to cast goosebumps all over me:
Is it much to demand?
I want a full house and a rock-and-roll band
Pens that won’t run out of ink
And cool quiet and time to think
Over and over, Williams asks, “Shouldn’t I have this? Shouldn’t I have this? Shouldn’t I have all of this?” I say yes. Yes, she should. She’s Lucinda Williams, dammit. Give her the entire world.