Thursday, December 07, 2006

"Over Time" / Lucinda Williams

Now here's a real woman singing. It's not just because her voice isn't perfect (though it sure is distinctive, sliding into the pitch, carelessly enunciated, with a little strident quaver as she hits certain notes) . No, what Lucinda's got going for her is better than vocal perfection: It's that worse-for-wear weariness, that veteran shrug of resignation. Men don't fool her anymore, but she's learned to take the bad with the good -- 'cuz, really, what are your other options?

Amen, sister.

"Over Time" may be a "getting over you" song, but it's a version strictly for realists. For some reason I think of a back-porch screen door banging shut, and a woman flopping down in a hammock with a Mason jar of icetea to nurse her bruised-but-not-broken heart. Her guy's hit the road already, and this is how she exorcises the memory of his cute butt in those faded blue jeans.

The vibe here definitely defers to Lucinda's country roots, though this 2003 album World Without Tears embraces many other styles as well. The shuffling tempo isn't mournful or frantic, just a half-listless two-step; the western-style electric guitar twangs with a funny distorted shimmy; the drums slap along aimlessly. Williams' voice sounds flat and a little numb; the wound's still fresh, but she already knows that this too shall pass.

The chorus is a nugget of common beauty-parlor wisdom -- "Over time / That's what they all tell me / That's what they say to me / Over time" -- and maybe it's a cliche, but aren't cliches what real people cling to? She repeats this hope over and over, almost under her breath, while she studies her chipped toenail polish and waits for the medicine to kick in.

And then, as if stretching and shifting her weight in the hammock, in the verse she thinks wistfully back on her defected lover. She doesn't fool herself with any you-were-the-best-thing-I-ever-had stuff; her memory of him is totally down-to-earth, and so specific it doesn't even bother to rhyme: "Your pale skin / Your sexy crooked teeth / The trouble you'd get in / In your clumsy way." I love that little affectionate note that creeps in, almost against her will. Aw, hell, he was kinda hot, wasn't he? And I am so there, like a sympathetic neighbor stopping by with a casserole and a carton of cigarettes to show female solidarity.

Lucinda Williams may not hit every vocal note perfectly, but she hits the emotional notes just right. This is something guys don't always realize: Women know that all men are assholes -- and we love 'em anyway. Sometimes we love them because they are assholes. And hey, if we didn't, the human race would've died off a long time ago.

1 comment:

TomT said...

Brilliant, Holly. A very entertaining and thoughtful read.