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Customer Review

on 19 June 2003
When I first listened to this album (and the second and third time, I must say) I didn't really get it. Some of the songs seemed overly repetative and the lyrics felt a lot more powerful than the way in which they were presented. It was okay but I couldn't work out what was so good about it. Then I realised that I found it almost impossible to listen to the album as background music, and simultaneously I understood why this is such a brilliant album.
Whenever I listened to 'Car Wheels on a Gravel Road' while I was reading, working or cooking I found myself getting inexplicably edgy - I couldn't settle down and my mood turned very sharp. That's the secret of the album - it's not an album of raw emotion and poignancy in the same way as a Ryan Adams or Emmylou Harris album might be, it's an album of everyday. When you listen to 'Car Wheels on a Gravel Road' what you're hearing is not the flashpoint of an emotional crisis but what it is to live and be slightly f****ed up. It is the familiar habit of disappointment, decay and slight seediness that many of us carry around and is embodied in the staples of Southern literature - 'Streetcar Named Desire' et al - that this album embodies. You hear it and are filled with restlessness and dissatisfaction yet also a sense of comforting familiarity in that discomfort. It makes you understand exactly what it is to be ordinary - and let's face it we are all ordinary - but also the value of being so. It's an incredibly honest and evocative portrait, both of emotion and place.
Then of course there's the incredible musicianship. Just because it's understated you can't tell me that the guitar playing in 'Can't Let Go,' William's fabulous duet with Emmylous Harris in 'Greenville' or the contributions of the likes of Buddy Miller to several others tracks aren't the embodiment of everything that is great about alt-country at the moment. More than that Williams' subtle, transfiguring songwriting it a masterclass in the craft. The simple, satisfied yearning of 'Right in Time,' the decrepid seediness conjoured up in '2 Kool 2 Be 4-Gotten' and the lush despair of 'I Still Loing For Your Kiss' speak of one of the finest talents coming out of Nashville at the moment. She incorporates rock, folk, blues, something that is uniquely counrty and something that is even more alt-country.
This is truly an incredible album. Don't be put off by the fact that it'll take you a while to appreciate it because once you do you won't be able to get it out of your system. To listen to 'Car Wheels on a Gravel Road' is to inhabit Lucinda Williams' interior world, or at least the one that she is projecting for the album, and that is truly a rare and wonderful thing.
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4.6 out of 5 stars
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