Arriving the day after Donald Trump told us all we’d all feel better if we just went and shot some bleach into our bodies, here’s a little anti-Trump invective we definitely need right now. Roots-rock icon Lucinda Williams just released Good Souls Better Angels, arguably her best album since her 1998 landmark Car Wheels on a Gravel Road. Yet, where that album was finely wrought and full of literary detail, her latest comes on like a cathartic blues holler, full of slow-grinding rage at devils she knows — from struggling friends to bad news exes to, on “Man Without a Soul,” the current occupant of the White House.
It’s a humid, mordant blues track that moves at a torturous pace. Williams draws out every bile-steeped word with grim, vengeful determination, so that even if the song’s sentiment (Hey, asshole, you suck) doesn’t exactly count as revelatory social critique, the deep realness of her anger feels uniquely potent. “All the money in the world/Will never fill that hole,” she sings. When the lyrics turn towards Trump’s eventual demise (“How do you think this story ends/It’s not a matter of how/It’s just a matter of when”), she seems to be singing about a fate much darker and grimmer and more satisfying than mere November election results.
Over the years, Williams’ drawl has thickened, making every vowel its own sumptuously rolling river to cross and lending her songs a heavier tug of sensual hunger, which is saying something for someone whose been writing almost impossibly intense songs of love (and other afflictions) for decades. On Good Souls Better Angels, that couples powerfully with a visceral urgency that seems striking even for her: the defiant, stomping political rocker “You Can’t Rule Me,” the scathing “Wakin’ Up,” a tumultuous song about moving past a violent relationship, or more tender moments like the lovely, empathetic “When the Way Gets Dark,” a song that suggests even our worst struggles (whether personal or political) might eventually fade into memory, and that pain and evil don’t have to crush us, especially if we fight the battle together.
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