New Music Reviews

Lucinda Williams’ Cover of Sharon Van Etton’s Save Yourself: Defiance and Despair

In 2010 Sharon Van Etton released Save Yourself on her breakthrough record Epic. Now, we have some artists covering tracks off of that record, with the first being Lucinda Williams covering Save Yourself. Williams is a pioneer herself, but in the country genre with her raw and rock inspired record Car Wheels on a Gravel Road. Lucinda brings that country / blues / rock edge to Van Etton’s indie track, which gives it an entirely new dimension.

First of all, Sharron Van Etton’s 2010 record Epic is a landmark record in many respects. First of all, Sharon’s lyrical work on that record has inspired countless women singers and bands since that point, which is why Lucinda Williams put her hand up to cover this track. Second, it really put Sharon Van Etton on the map. She will soon become a force in women’s music and singer / songwriters more generally with records like: Tramp, Are We There and Remind Me Tomorrow. Van Etton has an amazing voice and a poetic writing talent to match. It’s fitting that someone of Lucinda Williams’ stature and standing in the industry would be the first track released from the upcoming record.

Above all else, Save Yourself is a song about how self – centred motives erode one’s humanity, thus you can never fully trust anyone. Wow, what a pick me up. Van Etton writes: Don’t you think I know / You’re only trying to save yourself / Just like everyone else. In the original, Van Etton’s voice and the light indie country arrangement highlights the lyrical talent in the song, but does not stop to wallow in its central message. Lucinda Williams puts an entirely different spin on the track with her musical and vocal take.

Williams slows the song right down with a country electric guitar and bass that sounds like the band wrapping up after a long night at Lefty’s Bar and Guitars in Laredo. She then jumps in with a deep and raw vocal that sounds like Lucinda telling off a no good man while taking drags off of a Marlboro Red. In between drags she belts out these verses and vigorously shakes her cigarette at him in defiance. The raw emotion behind her vocal gives the track a sense of defiance and despair that is lacking in the original, but is clearly evident in the lyrics. Lucinda Williams is 68 and you feel like she has lived this song and all of that personal pain and emotion is poured into every lyric. The song has weight. You don’t listen to it, you feel it.

I love this track. This is everything I love about a cover. Much like Under Pressure with Karen O and Willie Nelson last year, Lucinda is able to take Save Yourself and give it an entirely new meaning without going so far outside the original that you can’t recognise the song. Moreover, I love Lucinda Williams still putting out meaningful music into her late 60s.

Listen to Save Yourself

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