Lucinda Williams was backstage at the Los Angeles Convention Center last fall when something happened that likely changed her life.
She was killing a bit of time while preparing to sing “Comes a Time” with Emmylou Harris and Patty Griffin at the tribute to Neil Young as MusiCaresPerson of the Year when she met legendary producer Don Was.
“We were hanging out back stage and Don came over,” said Williams noting that though she and Was had each followed the other’s work through the years, they had never formally met. “Tom [Overby, her manager and husband] was watching and noticed Don and I had a chemistry.”
Talk about timing. Williams had just written the songs for the follow up to her 2008 album Little Honey and was just starting to think about recording. Call it fate or karma or whatever, but it seemed natural that when she and Overby later began to discuss the new record, Overby suggested Was be invited to co-produce.
“We love Don’s past production work,” said Williams. “Part of it, too, was getting that extra set of ears. Also, we didn’t want to make the same album twice.”
Not that anyone would think duplicating Little Honey would be a misstep. The album was widely hailed by critics, especially for the love songs to Overby who Williams wed in 2009 during a concert (and after the ceremony, she went back and played an encore!).
With those album goals in mind, Williams and Overby sent Was the songs and then went to dinner with him where they extended the invitation for him to co-produce. Was readily agreed.
What no one knew at the time was that the Was, Williams, Overby teaming was a true aligning of artistic stars. Not only did the Was Overby production work well but the players Williams and Was handpicked for the album brought an undeniable freshness to the sound.
Keyboard player Rami Jaffee and guitarist Val McCallum were tapped by Was to join Butch Norton on drums, David Sutton on bass and Greg Leisz on guitar including pedal steel. As if that team wasn’t powerful enough, Elvis Costello—who also played and sang with Lucinda on her song “Jailhouse Tears”—was brought in to add some no-holds-barred guitar work.
But the heart of the album is, of course, Williams superb songwriting. Once again, she has done what many feared would be the impossible—reinvent herself. The brilliant multiple GRAMMY Award winning singer/songwriter—who has penned an array of classic songs including “Passionate Kisses” and “Change the Locks”—was well known for her songs about unrequited love and broken hearts such as “He Never Got Enough Love” and “Steal Your Love” when she made Little Honey. That album shifted her direction when it let the world in on the secret that she and Overby had found love.
Now she’s shifted gears again and made an album that has won critical praise after critical praise while tackling subjects far away from her unrequited love comfort zone of writing. Although the songs about broken hearts are easy to write, she said she was more than ready to cast a wider net creatively thanks to her rock-solid relationship with Overby.
“Tom is the big difference. I have a security I never had before,” she said. “It’s hard to talk about the process as a writer. Especially now with this album more than ever I’m being asked how I came up with the songs. So much of it was almost a stream of consciousness thing. I can’t detail that—it just flowed.”
It’s also taken fans along for the ride. A quick look at Williams’ Web site, Facebook page and other social media outlets shows that many fans are talking about the song— and word—”Blessed”. They detail what the word means to them in their lives. A full-length documentary made up of many of those stories is in the works and HBO is interested in the project, said Williams.
“I’m very excited about it,” said Williams of how her song has impacted so many and turned into a way for others to express themselves. “Times are tough right now. People need this.”
Lucinda Williams will be on tour to support Blessed. For a complete list of concert dates, more information about the album, and to tell your story of how you’re “Blessed,” check her Web site.