This list of songs is inspired by a list published by radio station, KEXP, from Seattle in 2010. For the most part, I will faithfully countdown from their list, from Song #500 to Song #1. So, when you see the song title listed as something like: “KEXP: Song #XXX”….it means that I am working off of the official KEXP list. If I post the song title as being: “KTOM: Song #xxx”….it means I have gone rogue and am inserting a song choice from my own personal list of tunes I really like. In either case, you are going to get to hear a great song and learn the story behind it. Finally, I am not a music critic nor a musician. I am a music fan and an armchair storyteller. Enough said! Let’s get on to today’s song.
KEXP: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History.
Song #358: Essence by Lucinda Williams.
There is a line from a famous song from The Wonderful World of Disney which states, “A dream is a wish your heart makes”. Having dreams for ourselves is one of the characteristics that we all seem to possess; the difference being, what size we allow our dreams to become. While some of us dream big dreams and spend our lives chasing those rainbows, most folks have dreams that are more modest in nature. The whole trick to realizing your dreams is trusting the process needed to get there and being content with the result, once your dream has been achieved.
Lucinda Williams is a songwriter and a professional musician who was born in 1953. She was the daughter of a famous American poet named Miller Williams (who read a poem at Bill Clinton’s inauguration). Lucinda Williams grew up with dreams of being a storyteller, a writer and a musician. For years, she played in bands as a seasoned session player for the likes of artists such as Roseanne Cash, Emmy-Lou Harris and Steve Earle. Her determination to play her best on the guitar for those folk earned Williams a reputation as a “musician’s musician…..a real pro’s pro”. As her career as a session player went on, Lucinda Williams, began dreaming of, not just being an accomplished player but, also, being a writer whose songs were worthy of being sung by those she looked up to. While touring in Australia with Cash and singer, Mary Chapin Carpenter, Lucinda Williams wrote a song called, “Passionate Kisses”. She never really liked the sound of her own voice so she was reluctant, at first, to record it. But, one day while practising, she was overheard by Mary Chapin Carpenter, who loved the song and offered to buy it from her. Williams agreed. “Passionate Kisses” became a hit for Carpenter and, as a result, Williams ended up winning a Grammy Award for songwriting the following year. Her Grammy nomination brought the spotlight squarely down upon her and, for one of the first times in her professional life, Williams was forced out of the background and up to the front of the stage. In the course of this exposure, people began to hear her sing for the first time. That changed everything.
Lucinda Williams possesses one of the most unique singing voices in all of music. It is a cross between the huskiness of Janis Joplin and the smoother but, still deep tones of a Melissa Etheridge. As noted earlier, Lucinda Williams has never liked the sound of her voice and had always thought that raw edge that she had disqualified her from being a songstress. The reality was that the uniqueness of her voice is what drew fans to her. But, just the same, Williams’ distrust of the sound of her voice has meant that she could be very stubborn when it came to recording songs. She has been known to take years between albums simply because she records her songs again and again, trying to get the sound of her voice to be “acceptable” to her.
All of that hard work has paid off for Lucinda Williams. That initial Grammy Award opened the door to a career that has seen her earn, accolade after accolade, for songs that transcend genres and that tell such personal, finely crafted stories. Lucinda Williams is a Folk singer, a Country singer, a Blues singer….sometimes, all three at once. Her career has seen her earn Gold records and reach the one million mark in album sales. But, more than anything, Williams has stayed true to her roots. She still prefers the company of professional players to the glitz and glamour of the Music Industry. She doesn’t have a clothing line or a brand of perfume that she is sponsoring. Instead, she has a guitar, a notebook filled with stories pulled from the well of her own experiences and a craftsperson’s touch when it comes to the quality of her work. It is hard to find someone more respected by her fellow musicians than Lucinda Williams.
The song you are about to hear, “Essence” is a sultry song born from personal experience. She has many other hits of her own such as, “Fruits of My Labour”……which is the very first song of hers I ever heard……., “Can’t Let Go” (which is her biggest selling single), “Car Wheels on a Gravel Road” and, “Get Right With God”. But, regardless of the song, you can be assured that Lucinda Williams has poured every ounce of herself into it. That sense of determination to always, always, always maintain a high level of integrity with every song she plays, writes and sings has helped Williams realize the dreams she once held in her heart as a poet’s daughter, back in the southern US, where she grew up. She is an expert at her craft, as you will soon hear. Please enjoy, “Essence” by Lucinda Williams.
The link to the video for the song, “Essence” by Lucinda Williams, can be found here.
The link to the official website for Lucinda Williams, can be found here.
Thanks to KEXP for supporting excellent songwriters and giving their work the spotlight it deserves. The link to their website can be found here.