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Love Letter To A Record: Seeker Lover Keeper’s Holly Throsby On Lucinda Williams’ ‘Happy Woman Blues’

Written by Holly Throsby on March 16, 2020

Many of us can link a certain album to pivotal moments in our lives. Whether it’s the first record you bought with your own money, the chord you first learnt to play on guitar, the song that soundtracked your first kiss, the album that got you those awkward and painful pubescent years or the one that set off light bulbs in your brain and inspired you to take a big leap of faith into the unknown – music is often the catalyst for change in our lives and can even help shape who we become.

In this series, Music Feeds asks artists to reflect on their relationship with music and share with us stories about the effect music has had on their lives.

Seeker Lover Keeper’s Holly Throsby – Lucinda Williams, Happy Woman Blues (1980)

A record I really love is called Happy Woman Blues by Lucinda Williams – her first album of original songs. It was released by Smithsonian Folkways in 1980, a year after her first record, Ramblin’, which was all covers. The two albums sound quite similar in terms of production and arrangements but I far prefer Happy Woman Blues on account of how good the songs are and knowing she wrote them.

The main things I associate with this record are a heartful feeling and a strong sense of place. It’s very direct. The lyrics in particular, they’re conversational and clever, and the woman in the songs feels so wild in spirit but also kind of alone. Cities in the American south are very alive in it, particularly Lafayette, which has a song named for it, which sounds like a love letter. There are also, of course, a lot of cars and driving, which is a familiar trope in country music but still so evocative – and a provider of great lines (“The highway has always been your lover.”)

I do think it’s a great driving album, and I have listened to it in the car, but for me it’s more a pottering-around-the-house album or something I would put on at a small party. The fiddles at the start give it that happy kind of feeling of a party, yet there’s something so mournful there, and it fits well with the title – Happy Woman Blues – which has a little sting to it. I wonder what she meant by it? To me it sounds both true and ironic at the same time.

My favourite song on the album is the last one, which is called ‘Sharp Cutting Wings (Song to a Poet)’. There is such ease to the lyrics and such wonderful lines (‘I wish I had a ship to sail the waters, I wish I had about a hundred dollars’). When I was falling in love with my current partner this song sat deep inside me and I decided to cover it at some shows as a romantic gesture. It is a very romantic song – that idea that someone is the shining star you’ve been waiting for. The line: ‘Let’s fly away to some foreign country where nobody knows who we are’ has such an urge to it and I wonder now if it inspired my song ‘Aeroplane’, which has a similar sentiment. Sometimes you don’t realise what inspired a song, or even what a song’s about, until years later and then it all makes more sense in hindsight.

There is a lot of heartbreak on this record too though, and maybe that’s why I love it so much. I’ve always loved sad songs, and the person in these is often longing for someone or kind of wounded but in a way that’s also tough and proud (‘Just another one night stand, just another man to forget’). I think she’s very strong, and witty, and someone I’d like to have a beer with. In fact, I often feel like opening a beer when I put this record on. It’s an album that has felt like a close friend to me for many years.

Listen to Seeker Lover Keeper’s latest album, Wild Seeds, here.

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