Lucinda Williams: “Pineola”

Lucinda WilliamsAddendum: I learned tonight (January 5, 2015) that Lucinda’s father, Miller Williams, the acclaimed American poet, died today of complications from Alzheimer’s disease.  Reading about the song, knowing Frank Stanford’s relationship to Miller Williams makes this post on “Pineola” all the more poignant.

Here’s the original post from earlier this morning.

Lucinda Williams’s 1992 song “Pineola” is southern storytelling at its best. Spare and brutal, it goes for the jugular, right to the heart of tragic southern loss.

The song tells the story of the suicide of southern poet Frank Stanford, a friend of Lucinda and her parents, and details the gathering of friends and family at Subiaco Cemetery. Read the full lyrics – or better yet, watch Lucinda sing the song in the video clip below.

A poet at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville, Lucinda’s father, Miller Williams, befriended such southern luminaries as diverse as Flannery O’Connor and George Jones. One of those friends was Stanford, a fixture in the Williams’s household in the 1970s.

Though Lucinda takes some liberties in her telling of Stanford’s story (he wasn’t from Pineola, an unincorporated community in North Carolina’s Avery County, and he was raised as a Catholic rather than a Pentecostal), the song is rough, gritty, true. From Lucinda’s initial shock at hearing of Stanford’s death to her numbness at his funeral, every word is measured, carefully chosen.

I love all of Lucinda Williams’s songwriting, but “Pineola” is one of my favorite songs by any artist of any genre. Time magazine put the song in its All-Time 100 Songs and named her the best songwriter of 2001.

The Academy of American Poets provides a great introduction to Miller and Lucinda Williams (complete with details about “Pineola”). There’s also an overview of Frank Stanford’s poetry and a link to one of his poems. An insightful reflection on “Pineola” and on Frank Stanford can be found here.

Ready for more of Lucinda Williams? Check out her 1992 CD, Sweet Old World. It includes “Pineola,” as well as eleven other masterful songs.

Join me this week on Pinterest as I pin images and resources related to Lucinda Williams. Take a look around at all my boards – or go straight to “My Favorite Songs” board for Lucinda Williams treats.

And don’t forget to leave a comment on this post! If you subscribe to the weekly StoryWeb email and leave a comment here, you’ll be entered into a monthly drawing to win a StoryWeb T-shirt.

Watch:Watch Lucinda Williams sing “Pineola” in this three-minute clip of a 2012 performance.

Image credit: Lucinda Williams at the Fillmore in New York City. (Photo by Dina Regine.)