Friday, September 08, 2006

Anatomy of a Mixed Tape, Track the Fifteenth

15. People Talkin’—Lucinda Williams

Lucinda Williams - World Without Tears - People Talkin'

Lucinda Williams has been near and dear to my heart ever since her 1998 “breakthrough” album, Car Wheels on a Gravel Road. Following that Ms. Williams released Essence in 2001 and World Without Tears, from which this song is taken, in 2003. Essence I never really got into, but World Without Tears is easily Car Wheels’s equal, albeit in a much different way: World is bruised, roughed-up and worn-out, while Car Wheels is full of vigor, feisty and fight-ready. Lucinda’s all yowl and holler on the earlier album, and all whiskey-scarred croon on the later—though still determined, as this song indicates:

Livin’ … is full of misery and pain
Somebody call you a dirty name
Keep on walkin’
Keep on walkin’

What the album is is mature, which is a rare thing in pop/rock music. (Or, more accurately, in life in general.) I’ve heard the like, maturity-wise, just a handful of times before, including Paul Simon’s wry, winking “Old,” from 2000’s You’re the One, and the whole of Warren Zevon’s swan song record The Wind, recorded and released in the year following his diagnosis with terminal cancer.

Having a sense of humor about the trials and tribulations that are an integral, inescapable part of life is a very important part of what being “mature” means. Ms. Williams notes “people talkin’,” along with “gossip and waggin’ tongues,” but concludes you gotta just “keep on walkin’”; Mr. Simon sings, “Down the decades every year /// Summer leaves and my birthday’s here /// And all my friends stand up and cheer /// And say, ‘Man, you’re old.’”; and Mr. Zevon, well … tune in tomorrow or thereabouts; same Bat Time, same Bat Channel.

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