The Top 10 Greatest Ever Americana Artists: Number 1 – Lucinda Williams

Well there you have it folks, our Number 1 is Lucinda Williams and by an overwhelming margin. She received 74 points which was 15 more than the runner-up, well over double that of fifth place and not far short of treble what the 10th placed artist received. Twelve of AUK’s writers had Lucinda on their own personal lists, by far the most of any artist, which was a major factor in her overwhelming victory.

It’s been a long, but exciting process and in the end we’ve found a very worthy winner. Here’s what a selection of our writers had to say.

“Lucinda Williams shows up on more of this series’s lists than any other artist so far, a statistic that is further proof of her towering status as a songwriter and performer. Her career has been a slow-burning one, with her first album of original songs, ‘Happy Woman Blues,’ released in 1980, introducing her penchant for rich details and deeply flawed characters. She changed americana and single-handedly brought the genre to a wider audience with her masterpiece ‘Car Wheels On A Gravel Road’ and subsequent nearly note-perfect albums. By “wider audience” I mean people who didn’t usually buy americana records and would have to look up Lake Charles or Lafayette on a map. Williams is not afraid to shoot straight from the first line of a song, often with her devastating deadpan delivery, conjuring seemingly effortless, seering turns of phrase, an endless well of simple, emotionally powerful melodies, and catchy, dirty, rock-inflected riffs. Long may she reign.” Kimberly Bright

“Rock, blues and a tougher edge to country run throughout the catalogue of Lucinda Williams. Wide acclaim for ‘Car Wheels On A Gravel Road’ released in 1998 made the hard pounding of the previous decade since her debut worthwhile. Among the steady flow of top-quality releases thereafter ‘The Ghosts of Highway 20’ particularly stands out. Williams suffered a stroke three years ago that left her unable to play guitar but as anyone who has seen a show since will attest, with a voice that crunches just a bit more gravel Williams has lost none of the power and expression she puts into her depictions of all life’s traumas.” Lyndon Bolton

 “When you think of americana, you think of Lucinda Williams.  Across her albums, the characters and stories that have unfolded have been compelling.  Equally stunning has been her remarkably consistent songcraft and musicianship throughout the decades.  The controlled grit of Williams’ voice captivates and is perfectly suited to the personal narratives that she’s famous for.  I had the privilege of reviewing ‘Good Souls Better Angels’ for AUK and what’s most impressive is the energy, commitment and freshness that she is still bringing to her work.  While writing for this list, I found myself rediscovering the languid 2007 album ‘West’.  Its melodies and rhythms are dreamily hypnotic and her vocal performance is so uniquely Lucinda.” Andrew Frolish

Agree or disagree with our selections? Next week it’s over to you as we ask the AUK readers to cast their votes for ‘The Top 10 Greatest Ever Americana Artists’. We can’t wait to get your take on this. Look out for details on how to have your say.

About Clint West 325 Articles
From buying my first record aged 10 and attending my first gig at 14, music has been a lifelong obsession. A proud native of Suffolk, I have lived in and around Manchester for the best part of 30 years. My idea of a perfect day would be a new record arriving in the post in the morning, watching Ipswich Town win in the afternoon followed by a gig and a pint with my mates at night,
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Paul Heyblom

You cannot mean this. What a ridiculous list. Earle, The Band and Parsons behind Williams and Vlautin? Unbelievable.

Rob Turner

I absolutely agree. Lucinda Williams hasn’t done anything decent in years, and I’m not sure that Willy Vlautin ever has. Townes van Zandt, Emmylou Harris, Gram Parsons all below them on your list? Nonsense!


Theme’s fighting’ words, dude!

Jonathan Aird

Richmond Fontaine and The Delines have produced so much excellent music that has really shaped the Americana genre. IMHO.
And I really can’t agree that Lucinda Williams has produced nothing of value on her recent albums. And live she’s phenomenal.
But, that’s just my opinion.

Mike O'Driscoll

Williams’ body of work is undeniably brilliant, and encompasses all the touchstones pf Americana, from Folk to Blues, Country to Cajun with a mighty dash of rock. A great choice. Less sure about Vlautin – I don’t know much of hsi work, apart from the Colfax album, which is, admittedly, a fantastic piece of work.

Jonathan Aird

Well…of course the final list is a feature of the data gathering – and if you read through all the contributions you’ll find Lucinda Williams somewhere on pretty much everyone’s list. So that level of consensus was always going to ensure a good position when the scores were totted up.
And, again if you read through the lists, several writers (myself included) explained their thought processes – and why these might have excluded plenty of “obvious choices”. That’s lists for you.
And I’d still take the whole of the Richmond Fontaine and Delines output over the fairly meagre overall output of Gram Parsons, good as some of it is.

Andrew Riggs

These lists always throw up anomalies as it’s a personal choice. There is a degree of snobbery to music tastes. my top 10 would not include any of these FINE artists.

Andy Trott

Well, i’m in a state of shock to be honest. I wonder if you selected the top 3 to provoke a reaction (?) Of course everyone will have a different list and i’m sure as you are throwing it out to the rest of us, it will be reflected.

Andy Davidson

Oh dear… fish fighting in a small pool. Ethren Petrisich, Oregan state university professor says… “anyone enthusiastic for the strict adherence to something called genre is engaging in something fundamentally conservative.” That was the risk with this feature but personal choices don’t seem to reflect AUK writers reviews. It was always going to be personal. Yeah I’m sore Vlautin is not number 1 but I swim in the ocean.

Dave Spalding

All lists of this type serve the same purpose,they are clickbait, therefore a perfect top 10, don’t think there’s anybody top 10 that doesn’t deserve a place, loads to like…

Jonathan Aird

Clickbait? Us? Perish the thought…

Andrew Riggs

Wilco, DBTs, Dave Alvin, Tom Russell, Jason Isbell, Steve Forbert,
OLD 97s ?

Joan Andreu

I disagree with that list. It’s great that there will be a readers poll to find the best americana artists of all time!

David Chalfen

I assume it’s been addressed down the years but even if some of Bob Dylan isn’t easily slotted into Americana, surely loads of it across the decades can be and if so then as a rhetorical question, what ranking does he merit? Or is he deemed as outside (above? ) any genre because he is Bob Dylan? I could gladly accept the latter notion.

Andy Trott

I been listening to a lot of Lucinda lately via the seven albums i own of her, to try and get an understanding of her 1st placing on your list.Undeniable talent yes, and she should figure well in your placing. But ten places in front of say Emmylou Harris?!! C’mon now. Are you surely not using too much personal choice here as opposed to achievement and talent?