With her husky voice and literary country-blues lyrics influenced by Woody Guthrie, Bobbie Gentry, Bob Dylan and Robert Johnson, Lucinda Williams has been one of America's most consistent singer-songwriters for three decades. She followed up 2011's "Blessed" with a cover song on the new "The Lost Notebooks of Hank Williams," which Dylan curated from the late country legend's unpublished material. Williams, 58, who plays in Westhampton Beach on Sunday, spoke by phone from Athens, Ga.
In recent concerts, you've dedicated "Joy" to "the 99 percent" and declared support for the Occupy Wall Street protesters. Why? And why that song?
During the Wisconsin protest, I got a message via one of my fans [that] mentioned that some people had been singing my song "Joy," which I thought was really cool and a real honor. I've just been following the movement. When I'm out on the road, I watch MSNBC all day -- that's my favorite news channel. I'm just really happy that people are getting off their apathetic couches and getting out and getting fed up and saying something and doing something about the dire situation.
To what extent do you consider yourself a "protest singer"?
Well, I've always been active in that. I started playing and singing in the '60s, at the height of the anti-Vietnam War movement, and I was listening to Bob Dylan and Joan Baez. There were protest songs everywhere. I started off listening to Woody Guthrie and Pete Seeger and just going on from there. I want to write more songs like that. I'm much more comfortable writing personal songs.
It seems like lately, especially on your album "Blessed," you've been exploring personal songs that also function as protest songs -- like "Soldier's Song," which juxtaposes a soldier in battle with a family at home.
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"Soldier's Song" was a little more direct, or obvious, I guess. It makes a statement about war and the toll that it takes on both ends -- with people out there fighting and the people left behind at home. We're going to start doing that one [live], actually . . . especially with the news [about] the Iraq War. Even songs like "Born to be Loved," that's a universal song, I'm saying to everyone, "You're not just a nobody, you're worth something." So this album was kind of my attempt at stretching out that way. It feels good to kind of go beyond yourself and connect more globally that way.
WHO Lucinda Williams
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