Many things got me through my master’s exam. Caffeine probably tops the list, and Tower Defense fits in there somewhere, too, as does Bernard Malmud. But the music that helped me survive was the Rolling Stones song “Gimme Shelter” and the entirety of Lucinda Williams’ album West. Despairing music often gets picked as good music to write to, but this is different than that (particularly considering I wasn’t doing creative work for the exam). It’s… moodier. Not mood music, unless you’re planning some kind of death parade march, but moody. It zigs between angry (“Come on”), adoring (“Mama You Sweet”), and tear-jerking (“Fancy Funeral”). The song I listened to most was probably the first song, “Are You Alright,” because… well, sometimes you need to hear someone sing that to you, right? Next to that, I also like “West,” which is ballady but in a small-town dance-hall way.
I didn’t know, when listening to it, that it was written and recorded while Williams was recovering from the death of her mother, but that makes sense. It seems like a good-bye album, but also a hello album, a road trip album, but only if the place you’re driving to is the place you’re staying and the place you’re leaving is the one you’re from.
Anyway. She has a new album out this week, and I’m tempted by it, but I’m not sure it could improve upon the last one for me yet.
Excerpts of every song on West and the new album, Little Honey, are streaming on her site.