Lake Charles is my favorite track from Lucinda William’s album,  Car Wheels on a Gravel Road. There are no weak songs on this seminal release by the great  singer songwriter Lucinda Williams.  “He had a reason to get back to Lake Charles. He used to talk about it he’d go on and on”. This is a song I would prefer to listen to at any given moment as it conjures the sentimental feeling we all feel about a period/place etched in our vibrational DNA.  You know the place that feels like home.


“Lake Charles” is one of the most bittersweet songs on an album full of bittersweet songs, Lucinda Williams’ Car Wheels on a Gravel Road— a song so close to the songwriter’s heart that it’s often difficult for her to sing, much less talk about. It’s about Lucinda’s one-time boyfriend, Clyde Woodward, who died long after they’d split up. Lucinda had married and divorced in the interim, but Clyde’s influence was so profound that when his deterioration from cirrhosis of the liver reached its final stages in August 1991, Lucinda jumped on a plane from Los Angeles to see him before he died. Clyde died as Lucinda was in transit and she didn’t get to say goodbye, but I could tell her what it was like: Clyde Woodward died as I sat on one side of him and held his hand, playing lowdown blues songs for him in those long last moments.” *(1)

* (1) Going Back to “Lake Charles”

Austin Chronicle





Car Wheels on a Gravel road by Lucinda Williams CD

Lucinda WILLIAMS lake charles

Lake Charles
Song by Lucinda Williams

He had a reason to get back to Lake Charles
He used to talk about it
He’d just go on and on
He always said Louisiana
Was where he felt at home
He was born in Nacogdoches
That’s in East Texas
Not far from the border
But he liked to tell everybody
He was from Lake Charles
Did an angel whisper in your ear
And hold you close and take away your fear
In those long last moments
We used to drive
Through Lafayette and Baton Rouge
In a yellow Camino
Listening to Howling Wolf
He liked to stop in Lake Charles
‘Cause that’s the place that he loved
Did you run about as far as you could go
Down the Louisiana highway
Across Lake Pontchartrain
Now your soul is in Lake Charles
No matter what they say
Did an angel whisper in your ear
And hold you close and take away your fear
In those long last moments
He had a reason to get back to Lake Charles
He used to talk about it
He’d just go on and on
He always said Louisiana
Was where he felt at home
Did an angel whisper in your ear
And hold you close and take away your fear
In those long last moments
Did an angel whisper in your ear
And hold you close and take away your fear
In those long last moments
In those long last moments

Source: LyricFind
Songwriters: Lucinda Williams
Lake Charles lyrics © Warner Chappell Music, Inc
Lucinda Williams – Lake Charles Lyrics |

Lake Charles LA at sunset

CR’s Take

Score 77
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Jimbo Mathis performs Car Wheels on a gravel Road
Pintail_Wildlife_Drive_Lake Charles LA

Lake Charles Lucinda Williams YouTube








Lucinda Williams Car Wheels on a Gravel Road unrealized version.
20th anniversary Tour for Car Wheels on a Gravel road by Lucinda Williams

Car Wheels on a Gravel Road (1998)

That’s the one that I’ll never live down. Nobody understood all the stuff that was going on. They think that I was a perfectionist, blah blah blah. Again, it was a blessing in disguise that there was all that time in between [Sweet Old World and Car Wheels] because I had all that time to write all those songs, like “Car Wheels on a Gravel Road.” I mean, “Drunken Angel” took a long time to write; I worked on that for a long time. That one and “Lake Charles” and “Car Wheels” were also just a labor of love. Those didn’t just pop out.

I just wanted them to be good, and at that time, I was still sending songs to my dad. I wanted to make sure he thought they were good before I recorded them because I really looked up to him, and he was always my mentor. My dad said, “Well, I don’t think you should use the word ‘angel’ in ‘Lake Charles’ because you already used it in ‘Drunken Angel,’ and now you’re being kind of redundant.” He said, “Can’t you change that to something else? What about the devil whispered in your ear?” I said, “No, dad, that’s not gonna work. It has to be ‘angel.’” And he just said, “Okay, but that’s it. You’ve used your quota for ‘angel.’ You can’t use it in any other songs.” When I had the songs for the Essence album, I said, “You don’t have any comments?” and he said, “Nope.” I asked, “So does that mean I graduated?” And he said, “Yep.”

The thing with Car Wheels was I didn’t want to make the same-sounding album again. I was trying to go for a certain vocal sound that I felt I still hadn’t gotten on any of my albums up to that point. Steve Earle invited me to sing on his album, [1996’s] I Feel Alright, that song “You’re Still Standing There,” when I went to Nashville. I just loved the vocal sound that Ray Kennedy, his engineer, produced. So I talked to [longtime collaborator and producer] Gurf [Morlix] about it and wasn’t ready to let the album go. But Gurf didn’t agree with me; he said, “It sucks. I don’t like the sound of it.” And I said, “Well, I do.” Much to the dismay of Gurf, who left halfway through the project and hasn’t talked to me since.

Haven’t you spoken since the Car Wheels sessions?

No, he doesn’t want me in his life anymore. He’s very weird about it. It is funny; it’s laughable. He played in L.A. last year, and I went to see him, and I was anxious about it but was really looking forward to it. But he refused to talk to me, went backstage, and wouldn’t come out. [Laughs.]

Lucinda Williams from Spin Magazine interview


Grammy-winning songwriter Lucinda Williams was a late-bloomer as a singer, blurring rock, country, folk, and blues into such hit albums as “World Without Tears,” “West,” and “Little Honey.” With a new memoir (“Don’t Tell Anybody the Secrets I Told You”), and a new album (“Stories from a Rock ‘n’ Roll Heart”), 2023 is shaping up to be a big year for the 70-year-old, just three years after she’d suffered a stroke. Correspondent Lee Cowan talks with Williams about her recovery and her hard-won, late-blooming success.

Lafayette Cypress Tree, Lafayette, United States Published on August 15, 2017 Canon, EOS 5D Mark III Free to use under the Unsplash License Bayou Cypress

Lucinda Wiliams – “Lake Charles” [Live From Austin, TX]


From the Lucinda Williams album ‘Live From Austin, TX’ available now on DVD:

 Downloads 6,665 Lac Martin, Parish Governing Authority District 6, Louisiana, USA Published on June 23, 2020 Canon, EOS 450D Free to use under the Unsplash License An egret bird in the swamp, at the Lake Martin

Lucinda Williams – Greenville


Live at Later…, 1998. Introducing Car Wheels On A Gravel Road.

One of the most beautiful unrequited, love songs ever written or performed at any time in human history.  Yes, hyperbole is warranted in this case.  This vocal alone can and will melt the coldest of hearts.   Listen with your most noble ears to this American master.

Lucinda Williams with Emmylou Harris – Greenville

From Lucinda William’s 1998 Grammy-winning album, “Car Wheels on a Gravel Road”. This song features Emmylou Harris and together they make a beautiful song even better. Enjoy!


Lucinda Williams


UMG (on behalf of Island Mercury); LatinAutor – Warner Chappell, CMRRA, UMPG Publishing, PEDL, Warner Chappell, Global Music Rights LLC, BMI – Broadcast Music Inc., UNIAO BRASILEIRA DE EDITORAS DE MUSICA – UBEM, LatinAutorPerf, and 5 Music Rights Societies

Greenville, SC, USA Published on September 20, 2019 FUJIFILM, X100F Free to use under the Unsplash License Woodside Mill, Greenville, SC


Blue from Lucinda Williams, Essence Album

How to Play Guitar Like Lucinda Williams


Jeffrey Pepper Rodgers dives into the distinctive rhythm guitar style of legendary singer-songwriter Lucinda Williams. Check out the complete lesson, including musical notation and tablature, in the September/October issue of Acoustic Guitar Magazine, available here:…