MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:
Just like about all of us, Lucinda Williams can't get away these days from the news cycle.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "BAD NEWS BLUES")
LUCINDA WILLIAMS: (Singing) Hanging in the air, laying on the ground, walking up the stairs, bad news all around. No matter where I go, I can't get away from it. Don't you know I'm knee-deep in it?
KELLY: Knee-deep in it - well, if you are knee-deep in bad news, you might as well sing about it. And Lucinda Williams - singer, songwriter, three-time Grammy winner - is doing just that. Her new album is "Good Souls, Better Angels." It is her most pointed and topical yet. And she joins us now.
Lucinda Williams, welcome back to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED.
WILLIAMS: Thank you. Thanks for having me.
KELLY: May I start with what a strange time this must be to release an album and not be able to tour and doing everything by Zoom? How are you doing this? Are you hunkered down just like the rest of us?
WILLIAMS: Yeah, hunkered down just like everybody else in our house in Nashville. We just - had just moved in, really. And first, the tornado hit...
KELLY: Oh, gosh. Yes.
WILLIAMS: ...Right after we moved in (laughter).
WILLIAMS: And then the pandemic - I ask my husband Tom the other day, are we going to have locusts next?
KELLY: Yeah. What was the time period when you were writing? And what was on your mind? - 'cause I described this as being pointed and topical.
KELLY: What was it you wanted to say at the moment that you were writing this?
WILLIAMS: Ironically enough, this particular album seems to be - this is probably the perfect time for it to come out, but...
KELLY: And why? How so?
WILLIAMS: Well, because of what's going on. I mean, besides the pandemic, we're dealing with the worst president we've ever had in the history of the United States. So the songs are very relevant to what's happening right now. And I've always wanted to write more topical songs and, you know...
KELLY: So what changed? You've been doing this for decades. How come - why now?
WILLIAMS: To tell you the truth, this probably came about as much as a result of me meeting Tom and getting engaged and getting married and, you know, finding...
KELLY: This is Tom, your husband and manager. Go on.
WILLIAMS: My husband and manager, yes - and, you know, finding my soul mate and also realizing that I can't continue to write unrequited love songs for the rest of my life. You know...
KELLY: (Laughter) It gets harder when you're happy in love, I guess.
WILLIAMS: Yeah - you know, which was a good thing.
KELLY: You talked about the worst president in history - your words. And I want to ask about a song on this album. It's called "Man Without A Soul." I have read interviews where you hinted who you wrote this about, and I wonder if you would come out and just tell us.
WILLIAMS: It could be many people. To me, it's about Trump just because, I mean, that's who I was thinking of. But Tom wrote a lot - some of the lyrics. And for him, he was thinking about this abusive relationship that I was in before I met Tom. He said, I think about that guy as much as I do Donald Trump when I hear this song.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "MAN WITHOUT A SOUL")
WILLIAMS: (Singing) You bring nothing good to this world beyond a web of cheating and stealing. You hide behind your wall of lies, but it's coming down. Yeah, it's coming down.
KELLY: Do you worry, I wonder, about being outspoken, talking about the current president and saying he's the worst when a lot of your audience might be supporters of this president, might be alienated by that?
KELLY: How do you think about that?
WILLIAMS: That's a good question. And you know, I'm kind of starting to come to terms with that.
KELLY: And does it bother you, or do you care? Are you like, I am who I am, and I'm singing what I'm singing?
WILLIAMS: It does bother me. Absolutely. And some of it can be very pointed and very mean.
WILLIAMS: One of them said, I thought you were a compassionate person. You wrote that song "Compassion." You know, where is your compassion? Now, that one really got me. You know, I mean, I am a compassionate person, but I get angry, too.
And I see this all the time. I see it with other artists that - you know, people saying, shut up and sing. You know, don't get involved in politics. You know, that's not your job. Well, sorry. I beg to differ. I mean, go back and listen to Woody Guthrie. It is my job, as far as I'm concerned, you know? So - see? It gets you all riled up. But you know, that's a good thing. It's good to get riled up.
KELLY: There's - I mean, this is a moment for anger, also a moment where so many people are trying to be aware of kindness and tenderness and taking care of others. And there's a song on here that got me thinking about that. This is "When The Way Gets Dark."
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "WHEN THE WAY GETS DARK")
WILLIAMS: (Singing) Don't give up. You have a reason to carry on. Don't give up. Take my hand. You're never alone.
KELLY: The lyrics - don't give up, take my hand, you're not alone - what's that like to sing in this moment?
WILLIAMS: It feels wonderful to sing that. And I believe in the goodness of people. And you know, there just been some mistakes made, and we need to fix them. But I feel like this does remind me of what happened in the '60s when we were in Vietnam and also the civil rights movement. It took those kinds of things to bring people together.
KELLY: That's the singer-songwriter Lucinda Williams, speaking with us from her home in Nashville. We've been talking about her new album "Good Souls, Better Angels."
Lucinda Williams, thank you.
WILLIAMS: Thank you so much, too.
(SOUNDBITE OF LUCINDA WILLIAMS SONG, "WHEN THE WAY GETS DARK")
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