Hold up, what? Multiple Grammy award winning smokey voiced songwriter extraordinaire Lucinda fucking Williams, Bill Frisell rocking his iconic guitar, Greg Leisz playing the soulful wail of a pedal steel, the perfect pocket bassist Reuben Rogers, and one of the most talented drummers Eric Harland, not to mention the motherfucker leading this shit, Charles Lloyd, on the sax … um, yes please!
I don’t know why people aren’t grabbing throats and demanding everyone listen to this shit. I get how some people could look past it at first. It’s not often that your hardcore gun tooting country fan enjoys the sound of modal jazz. And it’s not often that those clean-cut suit wearing jazz motherfuckers travel the low and dusty roads of country music. From a theoretical point of view, you couldn’t get two genres further apart. But, for those paying attention, genres don’t mean shit when honesty is the aim. And it’s not like Lloyd hasn’t bent these genre rings before. Motherfucker worked with the Beach Boys and the fucking Doors. Dude does what he fucking wants. Him and Lucinda even worked together last year to do a bizarre yet revealing cover of Bob Dylan’s “Masters of War”. But what’s particularly amazing about this album is how many ways you can react to it. This all depends on what kind of hat you wear.
Written while wearing a cowboy hat: Lucinda’s words have always been her true art. Her smokey vocals wouldn’t mean shit if they weren’t backed by those simple, stinging, and heartbreaking words. She seems to weave phrases together with gut string and strips of leather made from the skin off her back. The song “Dirt” comes from her album The Ghosts of Highway 20. As she repeats the words “you couldn’t cry if you wanted to” and that guitar and sax swirl around in the background, you feel a greater depth to her words. You picture the man she’s talking about sitting at a round kitchen table in some broken down motorhome as he polishes off the last of a cheap bourbon. You feel the mocking of Lucinda’s taunt as she tells this weathered piece of shit that’s he shouldn’t feel strong because he doesn’t cry. No, actually, he’s a fucking coward because he can’t cry. And what’s Lucinda’s answer as to why? “Cause even your thoughts are dust.” Damn Lucinda! You just broke the entire image of classic cowboy capow-capow masculinity in two fucking sentences. You can’t cry because you’re some blind stupid fool that can’t see the world for what it is? Fuck! That’s so fucking good. What the guitar and saxophone do is give a greater platform for Lucinda’s words.
Written while wearing a fedora: The album goes on to do a cover of Hendrix’s “Angel” and even throws out a jazz classic “Monk’s Mood”. You might think from these song choices that the mood of this album would feel sporadic. You might think that this shit doesn’t flow. You’d be wrong. This shit slides easier than a greased up butterball turkey shot out of a lubed up potato gun. When Lucinda gracefully steps aside and lets the guitar and trumpet have their voice, the instruments don’t piss on what she has already built. They take the essence of Lucinda’s spirit and voice and infuse it into their instruments. They take the slow and persistent defiance of living each day without giving a fuck and puts that shit into notes. The years that you hear in Lucinda’s voice echo in the saxophone solos and the gentle plucking of guitar strings. They share each other’s essence and push each other forward. This album does what the great vocal jazz albums do, create an environment that joins music and voice together and then explore the themes within this world as deep as they fucking can.
So fuck whatever hat you’re wearing. It’s time to take that shit off. If you listen to this album with an open head and open mind, you won’t hear it as genre defiance. All you’ll hear is pure and honest music made by seasoned professionals at the top of their game. It’s truly fucking beautiful.