Sorry I missed posting last week, but Cheryl and I were off gallivanting down in Florida at the 30A Songwriters Festival. After years of playing folky kinds of events and festivals, I have to admit that I was pretty burned out on the whole weirdo folk underworld, but 30A’s lineup included Lucinda Williams, so I felt it would be totally okay to attend. Lucinda is, after all, like a nice slug of Jack Daniels. She pretty much clears out any lingering unpleasant aftertaste of the Oh So Earnest folksingers from New England with their frightening sopranos and perky sunshine song topics.
Lucinda likes to write about depression, suicide, losing her joy, and changing the locks to keep some asshole out of her life. Then she delivers it all in a I’m So Fucking Tired Louisiana drawl. In between songs, she kind of gazes out at the audience in a way that suggests she’s vaguely startled to see anyone clapping. One time at the Bluebird, she stopped mid-song and said, “I have to pee,” and she walked right on through the audience to the can, and did her business while you could have heard a pin drop. Then she loudly flushd the toilet, returned to the stage without a hint of apology or embarrassment, and finished the song. Now THAT’S what I call songwriting and performance.
I met Lucinda in a bar like a million years ago in Nashville waaay before anyone really knew who the hell she was. (Well, people knew who she was, but the average music fan “hadn’t heard her on the radio,” so she didn’t really register on the radar of the masses until she won her Grammys.) I had somehow picked up a buried-away CD she had recorded for a nothing label a few years earlier in San Francisco and I thought she was incredible. With lyrics like “I ain’t got nobody. I’m nobody’s girl. Gonna get in my Mercury and drive around the world,” I knew I had struck a gold mine of talent.
Anyway, we chatted and she introduced me to her parents who were at the bar with her (bonus!). I’m mortified to say it, but those were the days when I carried my first CD around with me everywhere I went just in case I met someone important. So, horror of horrors, I eventually hurled one of my CDs at her, and then I rushed off in a state of utter shame to think that I had just forced my music on one of my idols. Driving home, I grimly imagined her using the CD case as a coaster, the CD itself as an oversized compact mirror. Perhaps she’d use it to change the water level in her toilet tank.
Then, lo and behold, there I was at a songwriting competition in Texas one year later, and who’s the judge? That’s right, bitches: Lucinda! She showed up backstage before the competition totally hungover and drinking a Tab. She was wearing flip-flops and some seriously dark sunglasses and kind of looked like she’d rather be taking a nap. Lucinda had, in fact, won the same competition some years earlier. When the festival director asked her to say a few words to the nervous competitors (I had probably already just about soiled myself) about her pleasant memories of winning back in ’88 or whatever, she just sort of sighed and said, “Hell, I was scared shitless.”
I think we all know how this story ends. I ended up winning the competition, and Lu and I became BFFs. Well, I won the competition, anyway. She and I drank a Corona in the vague vicinity of each other afterwards, and then we went our separate ways. I’m sure she misses me.
So, it was really something to see good old Lucinda playing that silver Telecaster and truly not giving a shit more than 20 years later. Cheryl and I sat on the soggy ground right next to the stage until our butts were soaked. I merrily spilled a beer on Cheryl, and we yelled and clapped until we were so exhausted that we had to go eat a mountain of fried shrimp on the Gulf.
And then I found out that Lucinda turned 60 today. Sixty! I guess music must be an ageless thing, because up there on the stage last weekend singing Crescent City, she didn’t look a day over, well, maybe 58. But Crescent City was as awesome as when I first heard it in 1987.
Happy birthday, Lucinda. Laissez les bon temps roulez.