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Lucinda Williams – [Album]

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Sunday, 13 March 2011

From the opening moments of her new album Blessed, it is clear that Lucinda Williams has some spring back in her step. That's not to say that she ever "lost it" – both 2006's West and 2008's Little Honey had some great moments – but Blessed is definitely a more consistent and inspired effort. It's tempting to say that Blessed is her best album since her 1998 breakthrough, Car Wheels on a Gravel Road, because it delivers as consistently as that album did and the songwriting feels as tight, but the band (featuring Elvis Costello and Matthew Sweet) and production from Don Was creates a tone that has more in common with 2003’s World Without Tears. Either way, it's an album worthy of her title as "America's best songwriter" (Time Magazine, 2002).

All of the defining elements of Wiliams’ songwriting style are in place on Blessed.  It features her trademark repetition (“Convince Me,” “Awakening”), simple and direct language (“Sweet Love”, “Born to be Loved”), post-relationship perspectives (“Buttercup”), and sketches of unreliable male characters (again, “Buttercup”), but the album also goes a little further than that too. “Soldier’s Song” sees Williams shift her focus from her personal relationships to take on the perspective of a dying soldier with heartbreaking results. "Kiss Like Your Kiss," which originally appeared on the True Blood soundtrack, is one of Williams' best recent vocal performances, as she convincingly expresses her awe of a lover’s kiss. No stranger to heavy subjects, the album features several tracks dealing with recent deaths in her life. "Copenhagen", is a tribute to her late manager Frank Callari and "Seeing Black" is an open letter addressing the recent suicide of friend and collaborator Vic Chestnutt. Both tracks feature regular collaborator Elvis Costello in an unfamiliar role: playing lead guitar. Not known for his soloing ability, his style is reminiscent of the bluesy tone of 2003’s World Without Tears and Don Was rightfully allows him room to stretch out on several tracks. Costello’s contribution to the album is felt from the start of the record as he provides some searing leads that compliment Williams’ vocal snarl as she taunts the male archetype that inhabits so many of her songs.

The album’s title suggests that Williams is in a reflective period and may be coming to terms with the issues of loss that have been so prominent in her work since West. At times, you can’t help but think that she is singing to herself (“Born To Be Loved”). So much of her catalogue has dealt with failed relationships, the loss of loved ones and heartbreak but, with Blessed, she finally seems to be finding some closure and a silver lining. As a result she delivers an album that will be considered a high point in her career; and that is indeed a blessing.

Artist:

www.lucindawilliams.com/

www.myspace.com/lucindawilliams

Album:

Blessed is out now. Buy it here on Amazon .

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Lucinda Williams – [Album]

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Saturday, 18 October 2008

From the opening false start of “Real Love,” an image instantly manifests in a listener’s mind that only gets set firmer when Lucinda Williams growls petulantly into her microphone. If it can bee assumed that 2007’s West was, in fact, a stoic and dry-eyed kiss-off to a former lover, as Little Honey warms up listeners are given the impression that the split might not have been so clean. Rather than the other party leaving, as listeners might have assumed of West, it may have been Williams that stormed out, got in her car, cried her eyes out behind the wheel, stepped into a rough looking bar out on Route 66, ordered an intravenous feed of sour mash and asked the house band if she could sit in with them because she’s got something she wants to get off her chest and it can’t wait.

“How could it be that some screwed up false start has the power to conjure up all that?” Give it a spin and you’ll get it.

Boozy, bluesy, loose and a little ragged, Little Honey offers a very different image of Lucinda Williams from what the one to which fans have grown accustomed; the album isn’t even slightly stoic or removed, and is more outgoing and right upfront. The swagger of Williams’ guitar is the tie that binds as well as the fire that drives this set of roadhouse rhythms. In keeping with that theme the singer wrings every blue note in her throat into the dozen original songs here to make anyone listening a little weak in the knees and every eye a little misty – whether she’s screaming off all doubts (“Honey Bee”) or biting back tears (as in “Little Rock Star”). Running such an emotional gamut in this context would normally make proceedings like these seem scattered but, here, whether mourning a broken heart with some old-timey hillside backside (“Well Well Well”), croaking out some long faded sheds of hope (“Circles And X’s“) or singing the incarceration blues with Elvis Costello (“Jailhouse Tears”), the mood is always the same and the difference lies entirely in whether Williams feels like succumbing to or rebelling against her own self-imposed pathos.

By the time the end of the night rolls around at that grimy little roadhouse, Lucinda Williams has drained the establishment’s whiskey reserves dry and even most of the regulars have either passed out or gone home, Lucinda Williams starts getting reflective in the most unlikely way. It’s a lonely moment – and it makes Williams’ lugubrious closing cover of AC/DC’s “It’s A Long Way To The Top” sound that much more sardonic and angry, From the very beginning, the singer’s bitter and spat delivery spells boredom and unease and as the track sputters to a close, nothing has been resolved and no one feels any better – all the singer can do is flip the sign, put the chairs on the tables and lock the album as she leaves and open the same problems the next morning to see if they look any easier under the harsh light of day.

Artist:

Lucinda Williams official homepage

Lucinda Williams myspace

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