On the eve of AmericanaFest in Nashville, Lucinda Williams was celebrated at BMI’s headquarters because the recipient of the performing rights group’s annual Troubadour Award, the place an invitation-only crowd heard Williams’ songs coated by Jason Isbell, Angel Olsen, ZZ Prime’s Billy Gibbons, Amos Lee and Madeline Edwards.
Different artists saluted Williams by way of taped congratulations, like Robert Plant and Dwight Yoakam, who known as giving Williams the lifetime achievement award “lengthy overdue.” Possibly it wasn’t that lengthy overdue: Williams is just the fourth artist to get the Troubadour honor because it was instituted in 2017, following within the footsteps of John Prine, John Hiatt and Robert Earl Eager.
“Because of everybody for making me really feel at dwelling right here in Nashville after transferring from L.A.,” Williams stated in accepting the award at a ceremony held within the outsized foyer of BMI’s Music Row department. “I’ve actually loved it and I’ve made some nice pals and all people’s been very supportive, and it appears like household.”
Performing with a home band, Isbell introduced alongside the 400 Unit’s co-lead guitarist, Sadler Vaden, to affix him on the honoree’s sorrowful “Drunken Angel,” whereas Lee did one other elegaic tune from Williams’ catalog, “Little Angel, Little Brother.” Olsen took on “Fruits of My Labor,” relative newcomer Edwards coated “Passionate Kisses” (successful for Mary Chapin Carpenter), and Gibbons bought his licks in on a feistier basic, “Modified the Locks.”
Williams, who was helped to the stage however appeared wholesome as she continues to get better from a 2020 stroke, had loads of appreciative phrases, beginning off with effusive reward for her publicist, Jim Flammia — now there’s a rarity in an acceptance speech — however reserving probably the most for her present label, Thirty Tigers.
“One of many causes I signed with that label is (David Macias is) an outdated radical lefty,” she stated. “We hit it off immediately as a result of he began speaking in regards to the industrial staff of the world, and he gave me an album of the songs from the Wobbly period and Woody Guthrie and every little thing, and progressive Southern social democrats. He’s operating a file firm, and but he’s talking the precise method, for the individuals, by the individuals — smash the firms.” After a pause, she added: “Effectively, I don’t wish to smash BMI, although! Y’all are good.”
Steve Earle, who co-produced her “Automobile Wheels on a Gravel Highway” album 25 years in the past, saluted her in a video interview as a feminist hero… and a late riser. “She’s fairly distinctive. She’s nocturnal. She doesn’t do properly in daylight,” Earle quipped. “Among the stuff that’s humorous I’m not gonna let you know about. I do know her rather well, so among the stuff is just not for you.”
Stated Elizabeth Prepare dinner, in the identical video presentation, “She gave me permission to simply really feel precisely how I needed to really feel and say what I needed to say and look how I needed to look doing it. And to see her have success for that makes it really feel not so egocentric… and doubtless bought me in bother with Music Row much more. However, you recognize, thank God.” Later, Prepare dinner bought anecdotal about different issues she picked up from Williams: “She informed me to put on glitter nail polish. That’s the perfect rock ‘n’ roll guitar-player-girl nail polish, the glitter, as a result of if you chip it, you possibly can simply cowl it up once more actual straightforward. It’s a metaphor, proper?”
Stated Edwards earlier than performing her cowl, “Lucinda Williams is a crucial lady for ladies like me, as a result of she is somebody who took the highway much less traveled by way of music and style. And for somebody like me who’s new to Nashville and my background is in soul and jazz and blues, and I ended up deciding to come back over to rock and nation and Americana, it was crucial for me to have a consultant such as you who did that for us… Any time anybody asks how do you count on to do all of this with all these genres, I say ‘Effectively, if Lucinda Williams can do all this, then so can I.’”
Plant, who’s nominated for an Americana award this week for his duo work with Alison Krauss, informed “Lu” that “let’s face it, I feel the entire world acknowledges the sweetness and the physique of your work and your lyrics… You’re a very fantastic woman. You’re one in every of my heroes/heroines… I like you very a lot, and I’m going to see you numerous earlier than you assume. Boo!” That vow appeared to augur properly for some form of shock Plant look in Nashville in the course of the coming week.
Probably the most passionate speech got here from Invoice Bentley, the Austin-cum-L.A. music journalist and former Warner Bros. staffer. He spoke about discovering Williams busking in Austin in 1974 whereas he was writing for a neighborhood different paper, and writing and publishing a whole article that solely referred to her by her first identify, as a result of he’d did not ask her her final. “Doggone it, man, I want I’d stated hey extra again on the drag again in 1974,” he stated.
Bentley talked about how, a few years in the past, he put collectively the second of two tribute albums he’d compiled in honor of his hero, Roky Erickson, and the way tough it was to draw performers for the latest one. The one two artists who rapidly agreed to contribute with out asking who else was on it, he stated, have been each within the room: Gibbons and Williams.
“When Lucinda stated sure, I feel that her saying sure to me made me as soon as once more consider that, just like the outdated thirteenth Flooring Elevators tune stated, the dominion of heaven is inside you… She has been vocal about what she loves. She gave me the hope that, even in my 70s now, you by no means hand over, man. Her music has given me a spine of metal to consider that and stay that dream all these years. … Lucinda, preserve making information and preserve giving us hope that the world is a superb place for all of us.”