Williams was born in Lake Charles, Louisiana, the daughter of a poetry professor, and when she drawls the words "Lake Charles" in her songs, you can hear that it's some kind of home. Actually, lots of places sound like home in Williams's songs — the kind of home you fought to get away from and then spent your life trying to get back to. I first fell into her music twelve years ago when a friend gave me Sweet Old World — twelve songs so pungent they made me dizzy. The album careens from glorious exuberance ("Six Blocks Away") to sweetly, simply stated adoration ("Something about What Happens When We Talk") to rocking lust ("Hot Blood").
The fulcrum of the album, for me, has always been "Pineola" — a matter-of-fact description of family and friends gathering after a young man's suicide. As many times as I've heard it, I have never been able to figure out how those words, that voice, and that spare instrumentation combine to build such a powerful sense of place and loss.