Lucinda Williams is back with a tremendous new album and she’s angry. Very angry. Good Souls Better Angels is an absolute classic.
Release Date: 24th April 2020
Label: Highway 20 Records
Formats: CD / DL
The last time we heard of Lucinda Williams was during the summer of 2019, when she toured the UK to revisit her classic 1998 album, Car Wheels On A Gravel Road. Prior to that, the last we’d heard of her had been her 2016 double album, Ghosts Of Highway 20. Now she’s back, with a tremendous new album, and she’s angry. Very angry. Good Souls Better Angels is an absolute classic, probably her best album since the aforementioned Car Wheels On A Gravel Road and it oozes malice about the state into which her America and her world have elapsed since her last album outing.
In musical style, Good Souls Better Angels continues the path to the rawness that was evident on Ghosts Of Highway 20 and the result is a bluesy, almost grungy, masterpiece, laced with distorted guitars and hissed vocals. The songs tell of bad times, bad treatment, bad memories, bad prospects, and in particular, bad people – the chief of which is a certain unhinged President, against whom at least three of the songs appear to rail.
Lucinda is backed by her touring band, Buick 6 who provide a soundtrack that has more in common with Nirvana, The Stooges or Hendrix than the alt-country dressings that the uninitiated might expect from a Lucinda Williams product and the backing is a perfect fit for the subject matter of the songs.
The album opens with the Memphis Minnie song You Can’t Rule Me, a raw declaration of independence that sets the scene perfectly for what’s to come. Bad News Blues, is the first of the albums many hard-edged rants about the state of the world and the “liars, lunatics, fools, thieves, clowns and hypocrites” that are currently thriving. Lyrically, it’s as powerful as it sounds and musically, it’s a swampy, sweaty blues that brings Bayou Country-era Creedence to mind. Man Without a Soul is a hard-hitting lunge at Trump; the lyrics like “you bring nothing good to this world” are amongst the milder jibes but the song does offer hope for something better in its coda which repeats the message “it’s coming down.”
The bluesy theme continues with Big Black Train, a modern spiritual which, above all other cuts on the album, perhaps harks back to the Car Wheels era. It builds slowly and ominously… Wakin’ Up is, perhaps the most disturbing song on an album of screaming intensity. The song recalls addiction and abusive treatment and contains lines like “He pissed on me, now he wants to kiss on me.” Wow.
We then move on to the subject of temptation and, specifically, the desire to and difficulty of resisting it in Pray The Devil Back To Hell, before Shadows And Doubts has another swipe at Trump, whilst offering hope for us all in its suggestion that there are many ways that he can be crushed.
The most poisonous lyrics on the album are probably those of Bone Of Contention in which the words “Evil bastard – go back to your grave” are hissed and it is tempting to believe that, once again, the words are aimed at Good Ol’ President Trump. Crashing drums and a howling wha-wha guitar are underpinned by some solid bass work and the song plays out with a guitar solo that emulates Hendrix at his most flowing.
Down Past The Bottom, a Greg Garing composition, is probably the hardest and rawest rocker on the album and it fits perfectly into the overall feel. Big Rotator is another powerful song that observes that whilst liars, losers and thieves might appear to currently hold the upper hand, things will inevitably change.
It’s not all anger and doom. Hope is offered in the album’s two quietest and most melodic tracks. When The Way Gets Dark suggests that, whilst we may be in an unholy mess right now, there are reasons for us all to carry on through and the album’s final track, Good Souls recognises that there still enough people around who want to help each other, despite appearances to the contrary.
Good Souls Better Angels is produced by Ray Kennedy along with Lucinda and her husband, Tom Overby (also her Manager.) Lucinda has used the album to vent her feelings, grudges and concerns in a very lucid and direct manner. It’s a brilliant album of no-holds-barred aggression which, in the end, manages to offer a rallying point for hope. It’s out now on Highway 20 Records – this is an album you can’t afford to miss.
Listen to Black Train here: