Local country radio stations are expressing outrage over Lucinda Williams’ latest CD release, saying that the maverick singer-songwriter is making them look bad and damaging their credibility.
“She’s killing us,” a station program director says of the positive reviews and sales reports for Williams’ new album, Essence. “If she would just stop showing off by recording all these real songs with real emotions and stick to something more peppy, we could play her stuff constantly.
“Car Wheels on a Gravel Road was bad enough when it came out in ’98, and now she’s doing it again. She’s got to be stopped, or country radio will become a laughingstock.”
The specific grievance seems to be Williams’ ability to create authentic country musiccomplete with frank and adult themes of loss, longing, and drinkingthat critics love and audiences embrace despite the fact that the songs don’t acquiesce to the kind of straitjacketed requirements of suburbanized country radio.
The success of Essence is similar to the jaw-dropping sales success of the roots-country soundtrack to the movie O Brother, Where Art Thou?another example of music that is inarguably popular and country, but doesn’t mirror what passes for country radio these days.
“We could just pass that off as a fluke, a bunch of George Clooney fans buying the O Brother CD because they thought he was the one doing the singing,” one music executive says. “But Essence is harder to brush off. It’s about real country themesheartache, sex, and Jesus.
“It’d be great if Shania [Twain] would record some of Lucinda’s stuff,” the executive says. “The trouble with Lucinda is, when she sings about being in Baton Rouge, she actually sounds like she’s in Baton Rouge. Who the hell would want to be in Baton Rouge? People in Baton Rouge don’t even want to be in Baton Rouge.”
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