Lucinda Williams continues to collaborate with many different artists, including Blake Mills on Saturday in Tahoe
A singer with one of the most recognizable voices in music will perform Saturday in the MontBleu Theatre. Three-time Grammy winner Lucinda Williams, who sings country, folk and blues, will perform with Blake Mills. She toured most of 2011 after releasing the album “Blessed,” which included Rami Jaffe on keyboards, Matthew Sweet on vocals and Greg Leisz and Elvis Costello on guitar. Her father, Miller Williams, is a renowned author who read poetry at President Clinton’s 1997 inauguration.
Williams, who has lived in California for a decade, spoke with Lake Tahoe Action last week. Here are excerpts from that conversation:
Q: You have recorded with hundreds of artists. How does that process begin?
A: Usually, they approach me about it. I’ve been real fortunate to be able to work with people who I really like. I’m real open. I do a lot of stuff with people you’ve never heard of. One of my favorites was the husband-and-wife duo Over the Rhine, which was produced by Joe Henry. I fell in love with their music. They’re based in Ohio. I’ve done a couple recently that aren’t out yet. There’s a collaboration between Rodney Crowell and the writer Mary Karr, also produced by Joe Henry. We’ve got about four or five things coming up, a Jesse Winchester tribute album, and we have a tribute to Paul McCartney in honor of his 70th birthday.
Q: Which McCartney song will you sing?
A: I think I’m doing “Oh Darling.” … Anyway, I am doing this thing for Sweet Relief benefit. And there’s this other guy, Michael Chapman, another artist I hadn’t been aware of. He’s from England. And they’re doing a tribute album to him. And you might have heard about this thing with Bob Dylan. It’s to benefit Amnesty International and it’s all Bob Dylan songs. We did “Trying to get to Heaven Before they Close the Door,” so we will probably be doing that one on this little run. That’s coming out later this month.
Q: Do you ever think you will work again with Gurf Morlix?
A: I don’t know. He won’t ever talk to me anymore. I’ve reached out. I tried to friend him on Facebook. I’ve sent him emails. It’s ridiculous. I am serious, we have not spoken since the (1998 “Car Wheels on a Gravel Road”) album because he didn’t like Steve Earle coming in and getting involved. Like I said, it wasn’t my choice.
Q: Who are you listening to these days?
A: I like the Roots and I love the Black Keys and I really love the Adele album. I just think she’s great, and I didn’t realize she co-wrote all the songs she does, so I’m really impressed with her. I really love soulful voices and great melodies and cool lyrics. Like I love Sade. She’s got some great songs. If you peer beneath the surface of her incredible soulful voice and beauty, she’s got some really cool songs. Not just love songs. There’s a song called “Jezebel” about a prostitute. She sings a lot about working-class people.
Q: On the phone you sound just like you sing. Do people tell you that?
A: Sometimes people tell me when you talk you sound like you sing. It’s almost conversational, or something.
Q: I’m glad the California experience hasn’t changed your accent.
A: No. That’s one thing I feel real strongly about. When I was younger, it was more kind of a drawl. It’s kind of all mixed up now because I lived in Texas for 10 years. My dad’s family was all from Arkansas and my mom’s family was all from Louisiana. There are different Southern accents everywhere you go. And then the Texas thing kind of got mixed in. But I’ve always been adamant about being a Southerner. I moved to New York and I couldn’t believe the people there who were trying to lose their Southern accents for fear that it would get in the way of them getting a certain job, particularly people in the entertainment industry.
Q: I think real country, not pop country, but real country and blues are very closely related. Don’t you?
A: Oh, yeah. That brings to mind one of the first interviews I did and I was in Boston, where they tend to be overly intellectual. Especially around Northampton. He says, “You do country and you do blues. Isn’t that unusual that you do both of those?” I said, “No, actually not at all,” and I quoted Hank Williams. He always said, “Country music is the white man’s blues.” So it comes out changed in the paper, “white people’s blues” instead of “white man’s blues,” because they thought it was sexist. I said, “It’s a Hank Williams quote. Can you just leave it alone?” That’s like telling people not to read “Tom Sawyer.” I hate that kind of thing. Anyway, he didn’t see the connection. Look at the crossover, the country blues. That’s all the blues stuff I really got into, was the country blues and the Delta blues. It’s called country blues for a reason.
Q: It was great to get to speak with you.
A: Well, it was just like a conversation. Those are the kind of interviews that are more enjoyable.
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