LUCINDA WILLIAMS Good Souls Better Angels gets 7/10

Lucinda Williams
Good Souls Better Angels

Highway 20/Thirty Tigers


For many years Lucinda Williams has been categorised within the ‘alt-country’ sub-genre of music but you would be hard-pressed to fit her latest album Good Souls Better Angels into a country genre of any kind. It is blues-rock, sometimes just rock, that Williams is delivering. More specifically it is blues-rock powered by righteous anger.

Williams, like many Americans, has had her imagination consumed by the current political climate – or maybe, more the current moral climate. This album is a rocking exorcism; a screed not just against the President – and Williams has stated that even Man Without A Soul, a track many attributed to being Trump-inspired, isn’t necessarily just about him – but the characters that fit right within his realm; abusers, devils, and our very own worse instincts.

Starting with You Can’t Rule Me is a statement of dissent and power with a traditional blues-rock sound. It allows us to experience this album without feeling like Williams, our tour guide, has been overwhelmed by the feelings she is expressing within these songs. Yes, she is angry, sad and disappointed by these times, but she is not ruled by them. She will come out the other side, as will you.

Bad News Blues reminds me of later era Dylan with its grumbling laundry list of places bad news is following her to, and even Williams states Dylan as an inspiration for the record. Wakin’ Up and Down Past the Bottom are stripped of much of the traditional blues sounds that Bad News Blues explores and what is left are propulsive rock songs. Wakin’ Up is a song about coming out of a bad relationship. It starts with escalating descriptions of the abusive relationship, leading to a final repeated refrain of “but I’m waking up from a bad dream.” Williams is going down into the darkness but she is offering light at the end of the tunnel.

Personally I have always preferred my Williams forlorn, the kind of music you listen to late at night when you don’t want to fight your loneliness but would rather settle into it. Big Black Train, When the Way Gets Dark and particularly Shadows & Doubts fit this bill. Reprieves from the harder anger and instrumentation of the surrounding tracks, these are quieter looks at the other side of the coin. What do we do after our anger?

Williams recorded Good Souls Better Angels on the quick with just her touring band. This has lent the album a straightforward sound, and probably contributed to the more blues/garage-rock direction. This is a robust album, a burning off of anger with an after shot of reflection and hope.

“You’ve got your battles, you’ll fight your way out” Williams sings on Shadows & Doubts and in Good Souls Better Angels she’s waking up to the bad relationships, calling out the guilty and seeing the end of the dark night. She’ll “pray the devil back to hell”, and what is music if not a kind of prayer?

Either a loud repudiation of evil or a quiet mediation on the way forward – Good Souls Better Angels covers both and is worth your time. Whether you want to dive deep into your sadness or your anger, Lucinda Williams has you covered.