I hesitated at first about naming Lucinda Williams a favorite singer. Amazing songwriter, no doubt. But I can't easily forget a TV appearance she made some years ago where her stage presence was almost nonexistent; she even seemed reluctant to open her eyes as she sang.
But a singer she is; the gravel in her voice comes with plenty of grit. And, in something like ''Hot Blood,'' she makes you feel the heat -- and the sweat, and the need. She knows her way around a swamp. As entertaining as Mary-Chapin Carpenter's ''Passionate Kisses'' is, Williams's original has far more texture. When she sings about a comfortable bed that won't hurt her back, you hear that her back has been hurt a lot -- probably after she had worked long and hard during the day. It's no accident that her early work in particular was heavily built on the blues.
She's an acquired taste, to be sure. So is Jimmy Scott, who will get one of these posts down the road. Still, once you've acquired it, you end up like me, scrounging for old, out-of-print recordings -- or at least the old out-of-print re-releases of the old out-of-print recordings. (Acquired taste rarely equals commercial.)
Songs to look for: ''Passionate Kisses'' of course, ''I Asked for Water,'' ''Six Blocks Away,'' ''Hot Blood,'' ''Righteously,'' ''Essence,'' ''Get Right With God,'' ''Car Wheels on a Gravel Road,'' ''Still I Long for Your Kiss,'' ''Fruits of My Labor,'' ''Steal Your Love.''
Not sure when I'll do another of these, so I should let you know some of what's coming: Aretha Franklin, Chrissie Hynde, Joe Cocker, Elvis Presley, Jackie Wilson, Randy Newman, the Persuasions, Manhattans, Nat King Cole, Mose Allison, Dusty Springfield, Ray Charles, Springsteen, Clyde McPhatter, Luther Vandross, Leonard Cohen, Bobby Darin, Smokey Robinson, Bob Dylan (yes, as a singer), Val Haynes, Al Green, James Brown, Curtis Mayfield, Bob Marley, VAN MORRISON!, Madeleine Peyroux, Prince, Dionne Warwick, Bono, Lou Reed, Joe Locke, Willie Nelson.
Not pretending this is some kind of definitive list. It really is favorites. And I am sure I will think of more singers as I go along (I already mentioned Jimmy Scott), or at least of wonderfully sung songs. (Georgia Satellites' ''Keep Your Hands to Yourself,'' and Buddy Miles's ''Them Changes'' come to mind, as well as a lot of Jimi Hendrix.)