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A good album is one which has songs you like on the first listen, and songs that you take a while to warm to, but once you do they won't leave your head. This album is a classic example - the more immediate rock tunes (I Think I Lost It, Right In Time, Joy) burn brightly and fade, while the songs that are initially slower to sparkle (All The Way To Jackson, Greenville, Metal Firecracker) eventually work their way into your head until you find yourself humming them while wandering round the supermarket. With the exception of Concrete And Barbed Wire, which is a personal no-go area, there isn't a song on this album which is out of place.
Unlike some female singers who try too hard to sound sexy, Williams' vocal fragility is endearing, not cloying - and as her latest album ,Essence, shows, she can do the 'torch songs and ballads' circuit as well as anyone. But this is Lucinda Williams with a band, some simple songs, a perfect production job (why can't Steve Earle produce his own albums this well?), and a confident swagger that suggests even while she was recording this, she knew it would turn out to be a wonderful album.
CAR WHEELS ON A GRAVEL ROAD is THE Southern album to own. The landscape, sounds and smells of the Deep South inhabit and give life to this album. So when Luicinda Williams sings "Sittin in the kitchen, a house in Macon, Loretta singing on the radio, smells of coffee, eggs and bacon - car wheels on a gravel road". You know where you are. Her voice is the key. It drips with Southern sexuality. And her timing is perfect. Best Songs? CAR WHEELS ON A GRAVEL ROAD, with Buddy Millar plucking his mando guitar, is nostalgic but never sickly. Also, the up tempo METAL FIRECRACKER and the self-affirming JOY stand out. But there is not really a bum track on here. The album contains some of the most pleasing, flowing music I have heard for years.
This record makes me want to go to Southern America. And while I save up the pennies, CAR WHEELS ON A GRAVEL ROAD will have to suffice.
She really does have an almost unique voice; while it can sound quite abrasive at times, it reaches into your soul, especially during the more melancholy moments.
'Car Wheels On A Gravel Road' is a rock album, a country album, and a folk album, and is an even more enjoyable concept than you might imagine. It's a wonderful 'driving' album; I'd say it was almost essential in the car, particularly in summer. For poetry fans, look no further than the lyrics here; Williams is a storyteller too, and it brings a whole new world to life. This makes it a true folk album - by the end you'll feel like you know these characters.
'Lake Charles' takes you to, well, Lake Charles, Louisiana, Williams' home town. On 'Drunken Angel' you can picture that 'derelict in your duct tape shoes'. After hearing 'Greenville', with a wonderful harmony vocal by Emmylou Harris, you will want to go there, along with the beau Williams is trying to extricate from her memory.
Amongst all the pain and anguish - and there is plenty - there is even humour; 'I think I lost it, let me know if you come across it, let me know if I let it fall along a back road somewhere' goes the chorus, proving that the human spirit will always rise again.
This is a must have for any serious music fan and aficionado. One final warning; once this album is in your blood, it will NEVER leave...
Whenever I listened to 'Car Wheels on a Gravel Road' while I was reading, working or cooking I found myself getting inexplicably edgy - I couldn't settle down and my mood turned very sharp. That's the secret of the album - it's not an album of raw emotion and poignancy in the same way as a Ryan Adams or Emmylou Harris album might be, it's an album of everyday. When you listen to 'Car Wheels on a Gravel Road' what you're hearing is not the flashpoint of an emotional crisis but what it is to live and be slightly f****ed up. It is the familiar habit of disappointment, decay and slight seediness that many of us carry around and is embodied in the staples of Southern literature - 'Streetcar Named Desire' et al - that this album embodies. You hear it and are filled with restlessness and dissatisfaction yet also a sense of comforting familiarity in that discomfort. It makes you understand exactly what it is to be ordinary - and let's face it we are all ordinary - but also the value of being so. It's an incredibly honest and evocative portrait, both of emotion and place.
Then of course there's the incredible musicianship.Read more ›