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4.6 out of 5 stars
4.6 out of 5 stars
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on 25 September 2017
This is a great album and one of her best. Well worth buying.
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on 9 January 2002
When I first heard this album, it didn't have an instantaneous effect on me, as did 'Car Wheels', but like a fine wine, it's been maturing on the rack, and it's taste now is better than I ever thought possible. It's probably more of a winter album, whereas 'Car Wheels' is probably more of a summer album. This is maybe because it's more melancholy than it's predecessor. But it doesn't sound any the worse for that.
The opening track 'Lonely Girls' is a good lesson in musical minimalism; the odd guitar chord, some rasping vocals - a pedestrian pace yes, but the overall effect is a delightful melancholy, which at the same time manages to sound uplifting. 'Steal Your Love' is similar in style. 'I Envy the Wind' and 'Blue' sound sad, but like a lot of sad things, they achieve a beauty all of their own, and the latter track is my favourite on the album. The rockier tracks 'Out of Touch', 'Essence' and 'Get Right With God' are equally pleasing.
'Go find a jukebox and see what a quarter will do' is the opening line of 'Blue', my favourite track on the album and is a lyric I could not have come up with in several lifetimes. This may have something to do with the fact I'm not from the deep south USA, but this woman is quite simply a genius. If you haven't discovered Lucinda Williams yet, discover her now and buy this album.
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on 3 July 2001
Lucinda is awesome, and this record like her last three (including Lucinda Williams, Sweet Old World, and Car Wheels) are tremendous records. This record is perhaps less country than you would anticipate, think Emmy-Lou's Wrecking Ball. If you 've never heard of Lucinda Williams before, start with 'Lucinda Williams', if you have, what the hell are you waiting for. It gets better than this, but not much.
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on 20 September 2001
This is another excellent album from Lucinda Williams but very different from "Car Wheels" - don't come expecting more of the same. For a start it's not as instantly accessible as "CarWheels". The whole feel of the album is (mostly) more low key, more down beat, more reflective. Some of this is down to the production on this album by Bo Ramsey and on "Car Wheels" by the TwangTrust - so you've got a whole different feel straight away. But underneath that you have incredibly strong, incredibly subtle songs. Lucinda Williams always seems drawn to ambiguous uncertain emotional areas. This is the seam she has worked for a long time and that's still where she is here. In general, this album seems darker than much of her previous work. There's always a dark side there but here it seems more to the fore. If you want happy, shiny songs then this ain't the album for you. But if you want to listen to one of the best songwriters around today attempting to portray the complexities of a deep emotional life then here it is. It's an album I've found growing on me more and more - don't take first listen as all there is. Much as I think this is an excellent album, if you're not familiar with Lucinda Williams I wouldn't start here. Get "Car Wheels" or "Lucinda Williams" then come back here later. But do come back - it's worth it.
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on 12 June 2001
Id never even heard of the lass prior to being bought a copy for a recent birthday. I'm not exactly a country fan so was rather bemused to be given this CD, and approached with trepidation.Nevertheless, after several listenings I rate it quite highly. A female Neil Young perhaps with a voice akin to Ricky Lee Jones maybe. Decent, for the most part laid back music. Worthy of a place in my collection.
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on 27 September 2001
How do you follow a Grammy winning album of mostly upbeat, country tunes played by a full sounding, hard-playing band? The easy answer would have been to dish up more of the same, not to waver from the successful formula established on 'Car Wheels On A Gravel Road'. Not so, if you're Lucinda Williams.
Essence strips down the arrangements and slows the pace of the songs to a melancholic crawl, and while the band arrangements remain, songs here are driven by softly played acoustic guitar. And it is every bit as magical as the much-loved 'Car Wheels', but Williams has added a new dimension of intimacy. On tracks such as Blue, where her voice is so prominent in the mix, you can feel and hear the emotion and raw beauty of the simple tune. Listen to this through headphones and it sounds phenomenal, as if she were in the room with you.
Standout track is the title track, a grinding, slow-burning ode to sexual desire and lust which features the most astonishing backing vocal performance from Gary Louris (Jayhawks). Having said that, there aren't any tunes here that don't stand out after repeated listens.
Lucinda Williams has always put raw emotion into her music, but it has never sounded as affecting or genuine as it does here. Curl up on your sofa with a bottle of wine and this album, and watch the winter evenings go by.
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on 7 June 2001
Following on from the wonderful "Car Wheels on a Gravel Road" was never going to be easy, but on Essence lucinda Willaims shows just why she is the Queen of Alternative country music. Quieter and perhaps more reflective than "Car Wheels", "Essence" consists of 11 beautifully put together songs. Rarely launching into electric guitar except on "out of touch", "get right with god" and the brilliant title track "Essence", this a compelling album. For "Lonelly girls" everywhere, and me well I'm off to find the "Bus to Baton Rouge".
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on 26 September 2001
I just can't stop playing this c.d.!
It seems to get better with every play ;whether it's the opener"lonely girls", which justs rolls along...or the title track"essence" ,with it's rock-steady undertones, there are some really awesome tracks.
Ilove the plaintive " bus to Baton Rouge", the sexy "steal your love", and the sheer sparseness of "out of touch" and "are you down"..it is a really beautiful sound.
I think the musicianship, the discreet licks here and there, and then Lucinda's vocals drawing us into her heart-soaked themes, are just..AMAZING !
Love it more than "Car Wheels" and that's saying something !
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on 24 March 2004
If Neil Young had been a woman, he probably would have been Lucinda Williams; both have that world-weary angst, both have rather thin voices that are decidely not pretty, but that carry a lot of power and emotion. Both are totally unique and brilliant, and write with an honesty that is rare these days.
In this collection of mellow songs, Lucinda explores God, lust and loneliness, and in very simple phrases captures a world of human emotions.
The musicianship is superb, and among the deluxe performers that play along with Lucinda on acoustic guitar are: Jim Keltner on drums; Tony Garnier on bass; Bo Ramsey on electric guitar; David Mansfield on violin and viola; Reese Wynans on Hammond B3 organ, and Charlie Sexton on a myriad of instruments
Favorites for me are "I Envy the Wind", with lyrics that every woman can identify with at one time or another in her life, "Are You Down", with such great work from Bo Ramsey and Reese Wynans, the hungry for love title song, and the fabulous "Get Right with God", which is the only up-tempo number on the CD.
The daughter of poet Miller Williams, Lucinda's songs have been covered by singers like Patty Loveless ("Night's Too Long") and Mary Chapin Carpenter ("Passonate Kisses"), and have earned her the coveted Grammy Award. Gutsy and gritty, this CD shows an artist that has character, and the strength to stand alone in a world full of copycats. The booklet insert contains all the lyrics, and total playing time is 51'03.
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on 12 August 2016
This is an odd CD for me to comment on, since it's not really my usual taste in music. However, I discovered a newer release Down Where The Spirit Meets The Bone, and very much enjoyed that. I followed up that purchase with Blessed and The Ghosts of Highway 20 - both of which are great.

Still, just listening to the samples illustrated that earlier recordings would be something slightly different. And yes, I'm going to mention it - it's all about the voice. As Ms. Williams has matured, her sound has become more honest, less affected, with lyrics breaking through a cracking voice - it's really quite something (unless you're the kind of person who thinks auto-tune is how everything must sound, in which case don't walk, run away).

So what of Essence? Well the first comment would be the vocals. For the first half of the album Ms. Williams tries earnestly to do a pop voice, as smooth as its possible for her to go. By the second half though she's let her hair down, and we get to see the real Lucinda (as evidenced by the releases that foilowed).

Things really kick in around track five - Out of Touch, and it's all good fun from there. The title track is great, if Ani DiFranco had put it out then perhaps more people would laud it. Get Right with God is another fine track, though there are no truly bad songs here.

Having said that, even now I'm not sure of this album through the first four tracks. They're a little too pretty, the voice too affected. By the end I'm always left with a smile at an experience worth having. So this is a middle recording for me. It's all up hill from here as far as I can tell, and I highly recommend the other albums I mention.
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