The Lucinda Williams Playlist

Julia St. Pierre, who interviewed Williams for our October L.A. Story column, shares the songwriter’s ten (plus) best songs

1. “Side of the Road” — Self-Titled
This song paints a beautiful image of a woman standing alone in the tall grass as her lover waits in the car while she takes a break from the relationship. Not a break up—just a break.


2. “Sidewalks of the City” — Sweet Old World
Yes, the Self-Titled record was Williams’ breakthrough, and Car Wheels on a Gravel Road won the Grammy, but it’s really hard to pick just one song off of Sweet Old World, so I figured I should try. “Sidewalks of the City” is full of imagery of a crumbling city; it’s a plaintive appeal to a lover to hold her and tell her she’s safe.


3. “Lake Charles” — Car Wheels on a Gravel Road
My editor asked for a list of ten songs, but here’s where I have to cut a corner: Just listen to the whole album. Start with “Lake Charles.” It’s where Lucinda was born, and you can almost picture yourself driving on highways through East Texas and Louisiana in a yellow El Camino.


4. “Essence” — Essence
The groove is sultry and steady, and the melody of the refrain when she repeats the phrase “I am waiting…I am waiting…I am waiting…” really sticks with you.


5. “Righteously” — World Without Tears
This song is sexy. It’s about kissing and running hands up legs and biting necks. Who else but Lucinda could sing: “Be my lover don’t play no games, just play me John Coltrane”?


6. “Real Live Bleeding Fingers” — World Without Tears
I had to put a rocker on this list. As usual for Lucinda, it’s about a man, and he’s a musician. He’s flawed, but he’s still her prince charming.


7. “Are You Alright?” — West
One thing that makes Lucinda a great songwriter is the simplicity of her songwriting. She takes an easy phrase, repeats it many times, and the truth and honesty in it becomes overwhelmingly beautiful.


8. “Buttercup” — Blessed
“Buttercup” is the ironic title of another rocker. In this one she tells a man off because he’s borrowed too much money and told too many lies.


9. “If Wishes Were Horses” — Little Honey
What a great line: “If wishes were horses, I’d have a ranch.” Lucinda makes asking for another chance heartbreaking.

10. “Walk On” — Down Where the Spirit Meets the Bone
It’s nice to hear Lucinda encouraging another woman to do what she’s gotta do.


If you are a singer, like, me, look for these, too. They are just a few of the songs Lucinda has masterfully covered:


Nick Drake’s “Which Will” on Sweet Old World

Gram Parson’s “Return of the Grievous Angel” on Return of the Grievous Angel: A Tribute to Gram Parsons

Richard Manuel and Robbie Robertson’s “Whispering Pines” on Love for Levon

Jackson Brown’s “The Pretender” on Looking Into You: A Tribute To Jackson Browne

ACDC’s “It’s a Long Way to the Top” on Little Honey