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Car Wheels on a Gravel Road

When nothing but time can still the pain, a Lucinda Williams song will see you through. In her dry Louisiana drawl, she sings plaintively of abusive childhoods and bad marriages; of drunken bar brawls and suicidal poets; of her own heart that shatters and mends and shatters again, like a puzzle, down-and-out. A magnet for the kind of unrequited love that seems to stop the Earth from turning, Williams persists. Then she’s onto the next town.

Williams was born a rolling stone. Her late father, the poet Miller Williams, was a college professor and the family moved often, to Mexico and Chile and a dozen Southern towns. After Williams was expelled from one New Orleans high school in part for refusing to stand for the Pledge of Allegiance in protest of Vietnam, dad gave her a list of 100 great books to read instead. (Williams’ family of civil rights activists and union workers passed on that spirit of dissent as well.) Miller’s profession brought a young Lucinda into contact with Allen Ginsberg, Charles Bukowski, and, most influentially, Flannery O’Connor. Williams would never let go of her O’Connor-inspired fantasy of writing a Great Southern Novel. Instead, Williams set hers to music, becoming an itinerant Southern Gothic beat… read more >

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