I am listening to it now. Apart from Joni Mitchell, I am into 60s loud music, punk , Joy Division and as far as more modern Pixies and Sonic Youth. But she really bowls me away Put the head phones on a bottle of wine or stronger and hear an amazing talent. If you don't enjoy, I can't comment!
This has got to be one of the best albums of all time, not just by Lucinda Williams standards but simply of all time. If you want to discover her music but don't know which album to choose,look no further it is wonderful. Thank you lucinda
With this album it was all about the VOICE. So distinctive that helpful comparisons really don't exist. It was a voice that the vast majority of us music buyers in the UK were unprepared for. Even those few cognoscenti wouldn't have fully prepared - previous albums had featured a voice that was at home in both the blues and country idioms, that had a strong southern twang and one that could convey both pathos and joy but was still in a recognisable country vein - and this I have to add is with the benefit of hindsight. For this album the voice had thickened, the slur was more pronounced. There's no other lady anywhere sounds like this. Not a lot of joy this time but plenty of pathos. This time the music was much more like full blooded rock and the voice had evolved to go with it. Those elements of folk, country and blues, which were previously well to the fore were now sublimated in the overall sound, making the new Williams style hers and hers alone. From reports of a sacked producer (Gurf Morlix) and an incredible amount of time and effort spent on production this was obviously very deliberate.
I spotted reference to the great Southern writer, James Lee Burke, in one of the reviews. Something Burke has always done in his books is give the reader strong identification with place, not just geography but the climate, the smell and the look. I've seen him do it often as early as the front page of books. Texas songwriters also love to drop in geographical and physical references. Even though she's from across the state border, Williams is just the same. Hardly a song goes by without some mention of Macon, Rosedale, a Lake Charles Bridge overlooking the river, down in Opelousas, through Lafayette and Baton Rouge, all the way to Jackson.
And there are the touches that make it hard to believe some of these songs are NOT autobiographical, "Why'd you let go of your guitar", "out all night playin' in a band", "Child in the backseat, about four or five years".
And although there's a song called "Joy" there's not a lot of joy in it. Where you do find joy is in those small touches elsewhere, "Smell of coffee, eggs and bacon", "Hank's voice on the radio", "He liked to stop in Lake Charles, `cause that's the place he loved", "We`d put on ZZ Top and turn `em up real loud". The lyrics are very, very good, but it's all these little touches that create and enhance the believability factor.
In terms of melodies, the songs generally are the sort that don't knock you out immediately, they creep up and then you find you're living with them. Likewise the accompaniment, because generally it's loud and there's less space to appreciate the nice mandolin touches or the hot dobro licks, but there are touches that come through - the slide guitar on "Concrete and Barbed Wire", Charlie Sexton's dobro on "Lake Charles", Buddy Miller's licks on "Greenville", Morlix on slide on "Jackson". Roy Bittan's Hammond B3 features on several numbers and it's this distinctly non-country instrument which is largely responsible for the rock feel, which gets almost Springsteen like in places.
My copy of the CD came with a sticker with much hyperbole - "The year's best album", "Songs as near perfect as possible", "a masterpiece", "the missing link between Sheryl Crow and Neil Young" !?!?!- I particularly don't get this last one! I'm inclined to react the other way to this sort of stuff so it was ages before I bought it. And then I confess that in part it was because of the other red sticker on the front which reads £3 (Virgin records sale). It is a great album, but possibly not quite as overwhelming as some of the critics had stated. Possibly I don't appreciate the strong mainstream rock sound as much as some. But I'm very glad I bought it. If nothing else it led me to other Lucinda Albums like the one simply entitled "Lucinda Williams" which has much more of a country folk feel (and also features some of her delightful blues work).
Lucinda first began to make a name for herself in the late eighties, initially as a songwriter. Patty Loveless and Mary Chapin Carpenter were among the singers to record covers of her songs, but her own albums made only a limited impact until the release of this classic album in 1998. Lucinda's world-weary voice is ideally suited to the songs, which are mainly her own. In her songs, Lucinda paints pictures of life in rural America - the everyday experiences of everyday people that most people can relate to, even if they don't live in the kind of place that Lucinda sings about. The title track is typical, being about a family setting off to visit people in the nearby town, but hinting how this is not simple when you've got children. She manages to slip in plugs for two of her heroes - Loretta and Hank - who, at different stages of the song, are singing on the radio. Another song here (Metal firecracker) plugs ZZ top - not really what I expected from Lucinda, but I'm pleased she has broad musical tastes. Another great song is Concrete and barbed wire, about artificial divisions. The most famous such division (in Berlin) had already disappeared some years before this album was recorded, so doesn't get mentioned. Instead, the song begins with Algiers. After that, it becomes more localized, ending with a prison wall. Quite apart from the songs, the music is also brilliant. Lucinda secured the services of some top-notch musicians for this project including Steve Earle and Buddy Miller.
There are so many great songs on this album, which must give hope to struggling singer-songwriters everywhere. Lucinda had been performing for two decades before this album made her a star. If you enjoy contemporary folk-country music, you will surely enjoy this masterpiece.