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What in tarnation is all the fuss about?
on 7 September 2003
As an occasional fan of CW, my eyes were caught by a feature article in the local paper on singer Lucinda Williams and her latest release, ESSENCE. As the Amazon reviews were also mostly positive, I bought it. (I know, just call me an easy mark.) Now, having listened to the CD twice to make sure I wasn't missing something, I'm left wondering what all the fuss is about.
All songs were written by Williams herself, and, for this, she has a noteworthy talent. If one accepts the premise that deserving lyrics stem from extensive emotional experience, especially profound love and/or suffering, then Lucinda has been around at least a short block. For example, in the track "Bus to Baton Rouge":
"All the front rooms were kept closed off. I never liked to go in there much. Sometimes the doors they'd be locked 'cause there were precious things that I couldn't touch - The company couch covered in plastic. Little books about being saved. The dining room table nobody ate at. The piano nobody played."
Or, in the track "Out of Touch":
"We speak in the past tense and talk about the weather. Half broken sentences we try to piece together. I ask about an old friend we both used to know. You said you heard he took his life about five years ago."
I wanted so much to like ESSENCE. Unfortunately, for all her talent, Lucinda Williams can't sing, if this CD is any indication. Her voice lacks range, and comes out in a raspy monotone like she's only semi-conscious. At those times when she pushes the envelope of her vocal limits, it's almost painful.
With songwriting like this begging to be sung, where's crooner Allison Moorer when you need her?