Little Honey Gets Happy
THERE'S something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue on Lucinda Williams' latest album, "Little Honey," out Tuesday. There's even a song called "Plan to Marry" on the record.
Still, the Louisiana-born singer-songwriter says she and her boyfriend-manager Tom Overby are "too busy with our careers" to set a wedding date. But she says, "We've been given permission [by our families] to just go to Vegas."
What have they been busy with? Making music and a home.
Williams, a musical vagabond who moved between Austin, Nashville and New York earlier in her career, is more settled now. In March, she and Overby bought a 1950s house together in Studio City, near Los Angeles.
Sitting in the breakfast nook of the house with a cup of Café Du Monde chicory coffee from New Orleans, a relaxed Williams says by phone, "It's a really cool area. It's just over the hill from Hollywood, so it's real close to everything but has a lot of privacy." There's a pool, too - they had rented a place with one, she explains, "and we loved it and decided if we were going to spend so much money for a house, we were gonna have a pool."
Much of "Little Honey" comes from what didn't fit onto last year's "West" album. "We had too many songs," Williams, 55, explains. "I don't know why, I was on a roll and I'd go into the studio every day or every other day with a new song, and by the end of it we had about 25 tracks. Tom wanted to put out a double album.
"We started running out of budget, time and money, and labels sort of frown on putting out double CDs . . . but we knew by the end of 'West' that we had another album already."
Four of the 13 songs are new ones, added to the "West" extras. The loud, electric "Honey Bee," one of the newbies, is emblematic of the album's upbeat nature.
She dedicated the punk-inflected song to Overby, "about to turn 50," at her recent Madison Square Garden Theater show, belting out: "Oh, my little honey bee/I'm so glad you stung me . . . Honey bee, it's heaven/twenty-four seven." Even though she got the verses mixed up and stopped the song, Williams just kind of shrugged and was happy to start over.
Williams also includes a pair of songs she wrote years ago. "I was inspired by Laura Cantrell's version of my song 'Letters,' " she says. "I must have written that song 30 years ago . . . It made me rethink my early songs."
That got Williams poking through her archives, which she describes as a "black Western-leather" expandable case, "where I keep the scrap paper of every song I've worked on. When I'm writing, I'll take all that stuff out and go through it, looking for a line and maybe borrow something from another song - which my dad [poet Miller Williams] refers to as 'cannibalizing.' "
It was in the case that she "stumbled on" "If Wishes Were Horses" and the countryish "Circles and X's." Williams kicks out the jams on her borrowed tune, AC/DC's "It's a Long Way to the Top," giving Overby, the album's co-producer, a "gold star" for picking it. "He thought it would be a good idea to do a cover of a song that was different than what I [usually] do," she says.
Other up-tempo numbers include album opener "Real Love" and "Well, Well, Well," an old-fashioned country western-rockabilly tune we'll dub Lucindabilly, with Charlie Louvin and Jim Lauderdale singing backup. Also on the country side, Williams duets with Elvis Costello on the George Jones/Tammy Wynette-ish "Jailhouse Tears."
The blue part of the equation comes from "Heaven Blues," a slow Delta blues song. But Williams is far from blue, judging from the high spirit and romantically contented nature of "Little Honey."