Groove Is in Her Heart
Lucinda Williams has got the blues again on her new album. But this time it's a different shade.

By Mikael Wood

Lucinda Williams knows the blues. For nearly three decades, this 54-year-old native of Lake Charles, Louisiana, has served as one of modern country music's most incisive chroniclers of heartbreak. But though she's made her mark with a raspy brand of bar-band folk rock - see 1998's Car Wheels on a Gravel Road for the most potent example - Williams says she's found a new blues in the electronic groove music of hipster dance acts such as Thievery Corporation, Kruder & Dorfmeister, and the Gotan Project. West, Williams's latest album, isn't a techno record. But it does find the veteran singer-songwriter delving into a murky - and intoxicating - world of textures and beats.

How'd you get into the electronic music you've been digging lately? It's not necessarily what we'd expect from a rootsy type like you.
I don't know - I've just been in the mood for that kind of stuff lately. I love the rhythms in Brazilian music. I love Sade. And when I heard Thievery Corporation, it just made sense to me. It was like a natural progression from the soul and funk and Delta blues I grew up listening to. It's kind of the same thing as what the White Stripes do and as some of the stuff that Moby's done - taking an older sound and adding beats to it.

It reminds you of stuff you heard when you were young. It's like the blues of now. As far as groove music, for years I listened to almost nothing but John Lee Hooker and Muddy Waters and ZZ Top and James Brown and Wilson Pickett. There wasn't anything else like that to listen to. This stuff is like a new version of that music.

West seems less about songwriting and more about performance than many of your previous records.
It's really stripped down and raw, and some of the tunes don't have a lot of parts.
 I wanted to use songwriting as a basic structure but then put all this other stuff around it. That's why I think Hal Willner was the right choice to produce this record; that's what he's been doing with the other projects that he's been working on. He brought in [jazz guitarist] Bill Frisell. He knew who to bring in to get that kind of sound.