‘If only….for a minute or two…’ Lucinda Williams, Side Of The Road

I was a cautious record buyer (yes, records, kids. Album length purchases) in my younger days, mostly because of financial caution.

I can name, off the top of my head, roughly half a dozen albums I bought on the strength of hearing one song off them.

This was one of them.

It is also the only time I’ve ever phoned a radio station and asked ‘What was that song you just played, and who sang it?’ – in this case, Auckland University’s Radio BFM, sometime in 1989.

The slightly sombre fiddle offsets Williams’ soaring, longing and oh-so-clear voice. It actually sounds like someone looking across fields, a bit of a wind blowing, grass or corn moving with the breeze. You can feel the space.

And lyrically, of course, it is Williams doing the Greta Garbo, ‘I Vant To Be Alone’ thing, only in a Louisiana accent.

This was ‘alt country’ or ‘Americana’ long before the critics came up with such a label. In the ’80s, country music was about as fashionable as white sports coats and pink carnations.

The entire album is worth it, by the way. A new, 25th anniversary remastered edition has just been released and it is marvellous.

I’m dubious about many of these re-releases – a lot seem to just beef up the bass, chuck in a couple of demos and live versions, and charge $48 for the thing – but the first CD version of the album had an extraordinarily thin sound.

This one’s a keeper.

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