On her current album, the two-CD set “The Ghosts of Highway 20,” Lucinda Williams feeds off the inspiration of the many towns her family lived in along that rural interstate. Her father was a visiting college poetry and literature professor, and the acclaimed singer-songwriter recorded 14 songs populated by the kinds of blue-collar folks she came to know growing up in in places like Vicksburg, Miss., and Minden, La.
Williams performs Friday, Jan. 27, in Sacramento.
“The Ghosts of Highway 20,” Williams said, “represents working people, and it doesn’t matter if it’s the Midwest, Northeast or Southeast. It’s about working-class people, and the struggles they go through. …
“My dad didn’t work at a factory, but I grew up wearing hand-me-down clothes, and we had secondhand furniture,” she continued. “I shopped at thrift shops, and we lived in rental houses. We never owned a house until we settled in Fayetteville, Ark., in 1971.”
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Looming large on this record is the spirit of Williams’ late father, Miller Williams, who died Jan. 1, 2015, from Alzheimer’s disease. In the aching, minimalist shuffle “If My Love Could Kill,” she sings of the “Slayer of wonder, slayer of words/Murderer of poets, murder of songs.”
While Williams and manager/husband Tom Overby have both gone through the heartache of losing parents, the love they have for each other has sparked a prolific creative streak for Williams, yielding a pair of solid double-CDs in four years.
That’s a surge in writing for Williams, 63, who established herself in the 1980s as a literate songwriter with vivid lyrics paired with songs that mixed rock, blues, country and folk. She won her first Grammy for best country song (“Passionate Kisses”) in 1994 and then in one in 1998 for best contemporary folk album (“Car Wheels on a Gravel Road”) and another in 2002 for best female rock vocal performance (“Get Right with God”).
For “Down Where The Spirit Meets The Bone” (2014) and “The Ghosts of Highway 20” (February 2016) she turned out 34 songs.
“I’m not really sure (where this creative burst) has come from,” she said. “It’s this period in my life and being in this place where I feel where I’m comfortable. It’s given me more freedom being happily married and in that kind of situation that’s forcing me to push myself to find other things to write about besides unrequited love,” she said.
“The other side of it all,” Williams continued, “is that you can draw on those things that created the pain. I just look at it like an endless well where I dip into it and pull stuff out that goes all the way back into my childhood and not just my own life. It’s really been liberating to be in that place as a writer.”
When: 7:30 p.m., Friday, Jan. 27
Where: Crest Theatre, 1013 K St., Sacramento