Lucinda Williams—Good Souls, Better Angels


2020, Thirty Tigers/Highway 20 Records

On a literal level, the album title does little to prepare you for what follows. Good Souls and Better Angels is more the music of a soul familiar with several kinds of hell, sung in a voice shaped by the jagged edges of blues, metal, punk and grunge. But it is also clear that you are listening to a woman, clearing a path for the better angels to follow. Inspired by a Memphis Minnie song of the same name, “You Can’t Rule Me” starts things off with a defiant attitude and grungy guitars as Lucinda stomps and struts the blues in a way that would make Minnie, Muddy Waters and Howlin’ Wolf proud. “Man I got a right, to talk about what I see./ Way too much is going wrong right in front of me./ You can’t rule me!” She goes topical in a non-specific way with “Bad News Blues,” but then it’s pretty obvious who she’s talking about in “Man Without A Soul.” The guitars screaming over power chords after she sings “How do you think this story ends/ It’s not a matter of how/ It’s a matter of when/ Cause it’s comin’ down,” are pure catharsis and hope. “I’m Waking Up” is a visceral telling of abuse in a nasty punk/rap aural space—a gut-punch of recovery. Williams channels Patti Smith in “Bone of Contention,” as she shreds someone as thoroughly as Dylan’s “Positively Fourth Street. “Down Past The Bottom” “where the devil won’t go” sounds every bit like she has looked up from there, fronting a metal band. The quieter moments are no less impactful. In the quarantine times of the album’s release, it is hard not to be comforted by the soft vibe of “When The Way Gets Dark,” “Don’t give up, it’s gonna be alright, you’re gonna be OK.” The last song “Good Souls,” is spiritual and, as is the rest of the album, real in a way only Lucinda Williams can tell it. —Michael Devlin

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