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|1. Real Love|
|2. Circles And X's|
|3. Tears Of Joy|
|4. Little Rock Star|
|5. Honey Bee|
|6. Well Well Well|
|7. If Wishes Were Horses|
|8. Jailhouse Tears|
|10. Heaven Blues|
|12. Plan To Marry|
|13. It's A Long Way To The Top|
Little Honey is the ninth studio album from three-time Grammy Award-winner Lucinda Williams. The 13 songs on Little Honey showcase all of the elements that have made Williams one of the most celebrated living songwriters. She revives the spirit of the delta on "Heaven Blues", emanates beauty and heartache on "The Knowing", duets with Elvis Costello on the classic mini-drama "Jailhouse Tears", sings poetry atop subtle horns on the epic "Rarity", and exudes the country blues on "Circles And Xs", which she wrote in 1985. Williams dives deeper into her rock roots than ever on tracks such as the albums opener "Real Love", the intense, raw power of "Honey Bee" and the grand crescendos of "Little Rock Star", where she draws on her personal wisdom from experience in a sincere letter to younger artists who walk the fine line between success and self-destruction.
Little Honey was produced by Eric Liljestrand, who engineered Williams West, and Tom Overby. Along with Costello, Little Honey features guest vocals by Matthew Sweet, Suzanna Hoffs, Jim Lauderdale, Tim Easton and the legendary Charlie Louvin. Williams is backed by her solid road band Buick 6, which includes mainstay Doug Pettibone on guitar, with David Sutton (bass) and former Eels members Chet Lyster (guitar) and Butch Norton (drums). Keyboardist Rob Burger, who also played on West returns for the Little Honey sessions.
Little Honey arrives just over a year after West, and although it's more diverse in terms of styles, moods and tempos, apparently most of it was originally written for that album. It would be churlish to call Little Honey a collection of off-cuts, but it does suffer from the same problem as its predecessor - an over-long album with too much filler.
Not that there aren't plenty of reasons to be cheerful about Little Honey. A clutch of dirty R&B/boogie flavoured rockers make this Williams' most upbeat and generally positive album to date. Real Love is a powerful opener, and Honey Bee stomps convincingly, although the closing cover of AC/DC's classic Long Way To The Top suffers from a lack of bagpipes, not to mention the chrome-plated howl of the late Bon Scott. Nice try, anyway.
Little Rock Star makes the most of Williams' famously bedraggled drawl, with great backing vocals by Susannah Hoffs and Matthew Sweet. Well Well Well is a pleasantly bobbing country gospel piece featuring Jim Lauderdale and Charlie Louvin of country legends The Louvin Brothers. Its authentically understated old-time guitar contrasts with the sleazy chops elsewhere by Doug Pettibone and former Eels member Chet Lyster. Elvis Costello makes a surprisingly good match for Williams on the clichéd but clever duet Jailhouse Tears - evoking his Almost Blue phase - and the gorgeous, languid country ballad Wishes Were Horses is the best thing of all.
On the down side, when Williams emulates her icons too faithfully, as she does on Heaven Blues, she's less than convincing. The similarly bluesy Tears Of Joy is a rewrite of Still I Long For Your Kiss, Rarity a ponderous and uneventful eight and a half minutes, and Plan To Marry best not engaged with. --Jon Lusk
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