As Emmylou Harris remarks in the sleeve notes ' Just when you thought there were no more truths to be unearthed in the human heart, along comes Lucinda Williams who plows up a whole new field ' and how very an apt description of not only Lucinda Williams but this album is.Some quite outstanding ' written from the heart ' tuneful and lyrical songs here and the whole band sounds great.Not only country but Lucinda does marvellous justice to her blues covers and in particular Howlin' Wolf's ' I Asked for Water ( He Gave Me Gasoline ) ' and the great addition of the bonus tracks including ' Nothing in Rambling ' ' Disgusted ' and ' Goin Back Home '. I can't recommend this album enough for sheer quality and Lucinda's delivery of the songs.A really pure feel surrounds the whole album, as though it was recorded after someone left the windows open and the fresh air just wafted in.
This classic album is full of emotionally compelling songs in the folk and country traditions, boosted by the spirit of rock 'n roll. There's worth in the Emmylou Harris comparisons as far as the material and themes are concerned but Lucinda's sound leans more towards folk-rock. I can just imagine how her music would sound if it had a fuller country instrumentation - still superb, but different. Her songs are literate, mature and emotionally gripping, poetic in a down-to-earth way. My personal favourites on an album of uniformly great compositions include The Night's Too Long, a song of yearning and liberation that reminds me of Emmylou's song "Red Dirt Girl." Big Red Sun Blues is a burst of power that does have some country twangs and Passionate Kisses is a catchy love song, while Am I Too Blue sees her firmly in the country tradition again. Thematically, there are touches of Springsteen here too, as on Crescent City and Side Of The Road. It's poignant to hear a line like "My brother knows where the best bars are" when one is familiar with the title track and songs like Pineola and Little Angel, Little Brother on her Sweet Old World album. Many songs on Lucinda Williams have been covered by other artists, proving the quality of this masterpiece.
Lucinda's 1988 album has a lighter touch instrumentally than the recently acclaimed "Car Wheels on a Gravel Road", but is no less rewarding. Some of the songs here have been recorded by other artists, but Lucinda's originals often show a delicacy and wistfulness that the cover versions lack. Though I miss the sheer attack of Mary Chapin Carpenter's vocal on "Passionate Kisses", Lucinda's treatment has a certain Tex-Mex swing that lifts the song clear of pop territory. "Crescent City" possesses a similar feel, with Doug Atwell's fiddle and snatches of Louisiana French in the lyrics conjuring up images of Lucinda's childhood in the South. If ever a single track clinches an album, "Side of the Road" must be the one. A song about finding one's own space is propelled beautifully by Gurf Morlix's guitar. Lucinda's vocal is pristine and Atwood's fiddle so atmospheric that you could almost be standing alongside her on the highway, watching the farmer's wife who "takes her hair down at night". In the crowded field of American singer-songwriters, Lucinda Williams has few peers.
As a fairly recent convert to Lucinda Williams, and an avid Spotify user, I'd built a playlist of all her albums -- except this one, her third, which remained tantalisingly unavailable. I bought it from Amazon and was very pleased indeed - it's quite unlike the rest of her stuff, more country-rock than country, marvellous arrangements, hot and heavy guitar sounds, and great songs. A classic to compete with Linda Ronstadt's Heart Like A Wheel.
My headline quote comes from Miller Williams, Lucinda's father and it's very apt. On the outside of the sleeve there are quotes from three distinguished ladies from the C&W world, rhapsodising about the quality of Lucinda's song writing - all three have recorded her songs. On the album itself we get a number of bonus tracks, several of which are interpretations of blues from the likes of Howling Wolf , Memphis Minnie and Lil' Son Jackson; others sound rather folky. Within the main body of the album our lady sings a number of songs, some of which could be very loosely interpreted as country, some more as folk, or at least, singer/songwriter, and there's one which is out and out rock. And then there's that voice.....
Does it matter? Do we really have to fit everyone into neat little boxes? What are the songs and performances like? That's a lot more interesting.
They're lighter than "Car Wheels on a gravel road" which, I guess is where many of us started. Younger of course; there were a lot of years in between. There's excitement, "the road was dark but the stars were bright, I just wanted to see you so bad", but resignation as well, "now it looks like all I got is time to kill", but the passion never goes, "it burns your skin, when you run into my arms again". And there's simple, unadorned joy when singing about Fats Domino's great city of New Orleans, "We used to dance the night away" and "I can hear my zydeco and laissez le bon temps roulez" - and the music reflects the words - there`s even a washboard in there. Most of the songs are medium tempo with some slower. Occasionally recognisable country lines appear which fit well with the lyrics - "these boots are the same ones I was wearing then". But the music is really country inflected rock coming right through in a line from Buddy Holly - just listen to "Big Red Sun Blues" - Waylon could be singing this and you`d love it just as much. The band is basic guitar - several varieties (all from Gurf Morlix), - bass and drums. Occasionally they're joined by a fiddle, accordion or mandolin but used sparingly. The fiddle appears to a great effect on "Like a Rose", a song for which Lucinda says she was aiming for a feel akin to the Velvet Underground's "I'll be your mirror" and "Sunday Morning". The most rocking number is "Changed the locks" which is not unlike some of the noisier records made by Alejandro Escovedo - it's worth noting that Lucinda does appear on the Escovedo tribute album "Por Vida". "Am I too blue" takes us back to country territory again with lyrics which cut right to the quick - mandolin and pedal steel and honky tonk piano emphasise the country feel but this isn't Nashville, it sounds too real, too blue even (without wishing to pun). "Price to Pay" is almost cornball country - the first waltz on the album - could imagine the Handsome family doing this - I absolutely love it - "With my heart, now there's a price you have to pay".
These songs aren't just good they're great. As a contrast, the original album finishes with one non-original, Howling Wolf's "I asked for Water, he gave me gasoline". Lucinda as the Wolf is quite something, falsetto howls included - great stuff. The bonus tracks carry on the blues theme with several tracks recorded from a radio broadcast with merely a second guitar for accompaniment - though for one song we also get Taj Mahal on harmonica. To say she knows these songs backwards is an understatement. Interspersed are four more of her originals. The simpler setting paints these more as folk songs, or the sort of performances you'd hear in a folk club, but they're not intrinsically different than the songs on the original album,; it's just the approach which is more intimate. The quality of the songs is still very evident.
Bonus tracks are often little more than padding and/or a deliberate temptation to get the completist to shell out again for an album that he/she already has. That's way, way from the case here. Some of these songs are as good as those on the main album - "I can't seem to make it through Sunday" is an example, how does she come up with lines like that? - and the homespun nature of the delivery adds extra charm.
Lucinda Williams is a great talent just discovered by myself . I hate American Country music as a rule but Lucinda has much more depth to her songs than the usual claptrap churned out from that particular genre . You can't put her music into a convenient box all tied up with string , give her CDs a try you may be surprised .
Loving practically everything LW puts out. Whilst very different to later work, I love this, new and raw and a kick in the ass to modern country tripe. "I just wanna see you so bad" - poppy but great. It was a country compilation with "metal firecracker" on it that got me into LW, and no looking back. Was lucky enough to see her and the band at the Brooklyn Bowl in January 2016, one of the best gigs I have ever been to. What a long career, and now riding the wave. Go out and trawl the back catalogue...it's a mass of heart wrenching, gritty country and rock n roll.
I brought this record by a happy accident (intended to order 'Sweet Old World') but I think this one is even better, a very consistent catchy melodic album that ranks to my mind as still her her best although not without criticism. The albums only cover 'I Asked for Water (He Gave Me Gasoline)' although not unduly unpleasant seems without good reason and to jar against the rest of the tracks, whilst 'Like a Rose' would have been a better closing track to side one as it rather interrupts the flow but hey these are minor quibbles.