LUCINDA WILLIAMS, VIC CHESTNUTT AND BUTTERCUP (2023): Anger and tone revisited

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LUCINDA WILLIAMS, VIC CHESTNUTT AND BUTTERCUP (2023): Anger and tone revisited

Vic Chestnutt was a gifted singer-songwriter who was much admired by his peers.

He had been in a car crash at 18 and was effectively a quadrapilegic although had some small movement in his hands so he could still play simple chords on guitar.

His first two albums were produced by Michael Stipe of REM and a fund-raising album for him had his songs covered by Smashing Pumpkins, Garbage, REM, Joe Henry with Madonna, the Indigo Girls and others.

He had often considered suicide and apparently made a couple of failed attempts, but in late 2009 he took an overdose of muscle relaxants and died on Christmas Day.

As with any suicide, those left behind were filled with questions . . .

Lucinda Williams had known Chestnutt and wrote about his death, trying to capture her confusion and the questions she had for him about . . . why?

Here is her demo of the song Seeing Black recorded at home, it appeared on the expanded version of her 2011 album Blessed.

Seeing Black, Lucinda Williams, home demo 2011
 

"How did you come up with a day and time? You didn't tell me you'd changed your mind How could I have been so blind? I didn't know you'd changed your mind. When you made the decision to get off this ride.

a65e50f3c89cf763f1c33916c0f92723_1200_80"Did you run out of places to go and hide? Did you know everybody would be surprised When you made the decision to get off this ride, when you made the decision to jump ship once and for all lose your grip

"Did you wax the deck to make it easier to slip when you made the decision to jump ship?

"When did you start seeing black? Was it too much good you felt you lacked? Was it too much weight on you back? When did you start seeing black?

"When did you start seeing red? Did you see me standing over your bed? Did you hear anything I said? When did you start seeing red?

"When did you start seeing white? Tell me baby what was it like? Was it when you received your last rites? When did you start seeing white?

"Did you use a compass to get out of this place? Did you ever hear my voice, did you see my face? Did you finally get tired of running the race? Did you use a compass to get out of this place?

"Did you feel your act was a final truth, the dramatic ending of a misspent youth? Did you really feel you had all the proof? Did you feel your act was a final truth? Was it hard to finally pull the plug ?Was it hard to receive that final hug?

"Did evil triumph over love Was it hard to finally pull the plug"

But when Williams came to record it another tone took over, also a feeling that people have about someone who commits suicide and leaves them behind with questions and guilt: anger

Seeing Black, Lucinda Williams, album version

And . . . 

This song is also taken from the same album Blessed and she is interviewed here about it, the background to it and the meaning behind some of the songs (including Seeing Black).

On her albums Williams has addressed the personal as much as the political and this song has some of the venom of Dylan's Positively 4th Street and of it she says . . . 

"It's about the same guy I wrote Jailhouse Tears about, so it's the last chapter of that. As I tell people when I play it live, 'This is the only bad boy song on the new album' and they all laugh. I still had a little in my system I had to get out."

Here is her home demo of it  

Buttercup, Lucinda Williams, kitchen demo 2011
 

"You talk about the junk you did, Like you talk about climbing trees. You look like a little kid, With bruises on your knees. You will never cop, To the damage that's been done.You will never stop, Cos it's too much fun.

Lucinda_Williams_Blessed_front"Now you want somebody to be your buttercup, Good luck finding your buttercup. You already suck me dry, Can't do it any more honey.

"You rough me up and make me cry, And you wanna borrow money. You say you feel like a failure, And wish you could take it all back.

"Well honey I gotta tell you, It's a little too late for that. Now you want somebody to be your buttercup, Good luck finding your buttercup.

"Glory is an act of the other You're always feeling bad Maybe you couldn't talk to your mother, Or stand up to your dad.

"You want my forgiveness,That I'll give to you. But you got yourself in this mess,There's nothing I can do.

"Now you want somebody to be your buttercup, Good luck finding your buttercup.

"First time I saw you, You would make me melt. The last time I saw you, You hit below the belt

"You might have a beautiful mouth, You might have beautiful eyes. But soon or later, it'll all go south, You tell too many lies.

"Now you want somebody to be your buttercup, Good luck finding your buttercup. Good luck finding your buttercup. Good luck finding your buttercup."

but here it is fleshed out by a band and again her tone changes

Buttercup, Lucinda Williams, album version w Elvis Costello on guitar
 

Never mess with a songwriter, you'll end up on the album.

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