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4.4 out of 5 stars38
4.4 out of 5 stars
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on 23 March 2011
No doubt about it - this is Lucinda's best studio album since the high water mark of World Without Tears. I feel quite happy listening to it all the way through, which I admit I found difficult with West or Little Honey. They frustrated me with their lack of commitment and vague production values. This one's clean and consistent in comparison.

The songs this time round inhabit the soundscape much better, and there's a nice southern Gospel swagger to several of the songs - Born To Be Loved and Awakening in particular. It's a grower for sure, but some songs have instant appeal - Seeing Black and Soldier's Song being my favourites so far. Great Hammond playing throughout, and some cracking guitar parts from Elvis Costello to boot. Incidentally its nice to see him getting recognition for his edgy playing - something I've long admired.

Overall though it's clear Lucinda is still in the same songwriting groove she started with West, and the power rests firmly with the lyrics rather than the melody, but this album has really been a nice surprise - the best of her 'mature' output for sure. I just wish I'd got the Deluxe Version, because the demo versions sound more my bag. Expense, always expense.
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on 30 March 2011
This is isn't William's strongest offering by far, and I found it quite difficult to get into. Blessed and Copenhagen were the only two tracks that clicked with me straight away. The others needed quite a few listens before I really began to enjoy them. Plenty - ? too much - of Lucinda's tortured voice and not enough, for me anyway, of her beautiful country voice here. Great guitar work in evidence throughout the album. Stick with it and you'll grow to appreciate Blessed!
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Lucinda Williams is not the most prolific of recording artistes. In fact this is only her 12th album release since 1979. It has been suggested that this is due, in part, to her pursuit of perfection which has made her a darling of the critics but which has not brought her great commercial success.

"Blessed" is her first album since the relatively disappointing "Little Honey" released in 2008. Produced by the legendary Don Was (Stones, Dylan, Elton John, Michelle Shocked etc)this album is a tour de force and, with all songs penned by Williams, her best offering since "World Without Tears" from 2003.

There is an aching quality to Lucinda's voice which enables her to convey bittersweet emotions and passionate brooding quite unlike any comparable singer songwriter. She knows what suits her voice and she can sure write the songs.

Just listen to her laid back southern drawl caress the lyrics of the title track "Blessed" with a mesmeric chanting lilt, Hammond B3, 12 string and piano. It is a track of such powerful atmosphere and reminiscent of The Band or Jackson Browne.

Don Was's great virtue is to let Lucinda's voice carry the songs and despite a great band delivering a distinctive country blues sound it is Lucinda's show. The country rock number "Buttercup" proves that Was has got it right. So too with "Born To Be Loved" a late night number underpinned by the sensuous B3 and a lyrical guitar; with Lucinda's voice taking centre stage this is a spellbinding journey into the blues.

There is so much to commend this album: the scorching Elvis Costello guitar break on "Seeing Black"; the exquisite "Kiss Like Your Kiss" in waltz time; the beauty of the plaintive ballad "Sweet Love" with Lucinda's voice an instrument of emotional perfection.

Don Was has produced an album with subtle shades of country rock and blues. With the guitars of Greg Leisz and Val McCallum, the drums of Butch Norton and the B3 and piano of Rami Jaffee there is a powerful bluesy band that complements the aching beauty of Williams' voice without ever threatening to dominate it. Some other producers should take note, this is the way to do it.
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Having nearly given up on Lucinda Williams after her distinctly average 2008 release "Little Honey" it is a rare pleasure to report a real return to form on her 10th album. While "Blessed" may not be another "Car Wheels on a gravel road" its probably grossly unfair to ever expect her to scale those heights again, but its a excellent album of blues rock and also showcases her gentler side. On display as ever are the raspy Southern drawl and her ragged heartbroken delivery making her one of the most distinctive voices in American music. But equally for your listening pleasure are some great songs and lyrics to much her status as the unofficial poet of the deep south. Opener "Buttercup" is a hard edged country rock break up song with Williams dispatching an ex boyfriend with her customary disdain and spite. The brilliant aching lament "I dont know how your living" alternatively is a song underpinned by latent regret and remorse and the type of song that Williams 58 years allow her to sing with the benefit of genuine experience and understanding. No one charts an emotional car crash in the way that Williams can. Speaking of which "Seeing black" is a song about the late Vic Chesnutt the American singer songwriter who recently tragically committed suicide at the age of 45. Williams sets questions throughout the song about when he "made a decision to jump ship" and "when did you start seeing black" and the song is set alight by a blazing guitar solo by that notorious axeman Elvis Costello! (we urge him with skills like these to undertake a forthcoming album of Hendrix covers).

Its clear that producer Don Was has brought new discipline and focus to Williams's songs and gently rolling "Sweet love" will not leave a dry eye in the house. Its followed by one of the rockiest songs on the album the excellent soul ballad "Convince me" where Williams Southern drawl is most pronounced and most persuasive again punctuated by a raw guitar solo . It is however the slower songs which really grab you and both "Soldiers song" which resonates with some of the themes in PJ Harvey's new album and sees Williams most poignant singing for at least a decade and the stellar title track, which is my own personal favourite thus far, are absolute stand outs. If your lucky you may catch this album still streaming in full on the NPR site and its well worth setting aside a quiet hour to emerse yourself in this deeply powerful record which is easily Williams's best in a very long time. We are blessed indeed.
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on 16 March 2011
Just make sure you buy the de luxe edition - the album itself is fine, if a little flat in places. But then you listen to the Kitchen Tapes (demos) disc, and it all comes to life, and the power of these slight, introspective songs washes over you and it's pure magic. Somehow when the band kicks in on the main album the bleak, blue-collar, middle-aged dirty reality is lost in all that slick, shiny backing.

I just wish Lucinda and the record company had the courage to ditch the "proper" sessions and release the demos on their own. It would have been an instant classic, along the lines of Johnny Cash's American Recordings.
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on 30 April 2011
Bought a couple of the deluxe versions of Blessed, one for me and one for a friend. Unlike 'Car wheels on a Gravel Road' 'Live at the Fillmore' 'West' and 'Little Honey' this one has not done it for me yet. I usually buy a Lucinda Williams album and play it over and over...this one has not had the same effect. I find the tracks on the Don Was produced CD quite interesting but they don't seem to grip me - the second or 'kitchen' cd is a tad mournful - almost (dare I say) miserable and I wonder if its just me having problems with'Blessed'? The friend who I bought a copy of 'Blessed for thinks it is great, along with all LW's works....I better put it on again and try to hear what I'm obviously missing!
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on 13 March 2011
As a long time Lucinda fan I was eagerly awaiting her latest Blessed album and confess that on initial hearing I was a little disappointed - however it gets better and better with every listen and I totally disagree with the recently read negative Sunday Times review by Mark Edwards !! Was he listening with his ears and mind shut down ? This ranks as a really great set of Lucinda songs - just listen to the emotion and feeling in every word. If only we had more artists who could bring such depth and meaning to their work. If you are a Lucinda fan buy it now - if not then listen - I mean really listen - and you should become one ?
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on 11 March 2015
An interesting double CD.

A studio produced CD and the same songs (The Kitchen Tapes) on a second CD recorded in the home as demo versions.

It may be a matter of personal taste, but I find the demo versions incomparably superior. Three stars for the studio version, five for the demos.

One has to wonder how many other country acts are having the guts ripped out of them by over-production.
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on 11 March 2014
If this was the first album of Lucinda's that you heard, you would probably think it's interesting and ok, but maybe not bother looking for more of her stuff. If you first listened to any of her other albums you would think, wow, I need to hear more of this artiste. Buttercup and Seeing Black are pretty good. The rest of the tracks, particularly the last few are simply not up to her usual standard.
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on 13 May 2011
2CDs, one studio recorded and one done at home. Exactly the same songs, however, which is rather a shame. Still, you don't really expect two albums for the price. An acquired taste, but very much Lucinda, and, as far as I am concerned, a pleasure to hear her again.
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