It isn't surprising that Lucinda Williams' level of craft takes time to assemble, but the six-year wait between Sweet Old World and its 1998 follow-up, Car Wheels on a Gravel Road, still raised eyebrows. The delay stemmed both from label difficulties and Williams' meticulous perfectionism, the latter reportedly over a too-produced sound and her own vocals. Listening to the record, one can understand why both might have concerned Williams. Car Wheels is far and away her most produced album to date, which is something of a mixed blessing. Its surfaces are clean and contemporary, with something in the timbres of the instruments (especially the drums) sounding extremely typical of a late-'90s major-label roots-rock album.
Lucinda Williams self-titled album Lucinda Williams, often referred to as The Rough Trade album released as a 25th Anniversary Special Reissue on January 14, 2014. The album, originally released in 1988, has been out of print for 10 years. The package includes a remastered album along with a bonus disk containing an unreleased 1989 concert in Eindhoven, Netherlands. This double-disc remaster was funded through a Pledge Music campaign; its sound is utterly fantastic. In addition to the original album, it includes a bonus disc that features a 14-song concert from the Netherlands in 1989 known as "Eindhoven Live" and featuring guitarist Gurf Morlix, as well as three tracks recorded at station KPFK, two more from KCRW, and one from NOISE. This is the way to reissue a classic recording.
Lucinda Williams has never had a comfortable relationship with the commercial side of the recording industry – her battles with various major labels in the '90s are the stuff of legend – and even though she had a reasonably stress-free partnership with Lost Highway Records from 2001's Essence to 2011's Blessed, it seems fitting that she would eventually decide to strike out on her own. 2014's Down Where the Spirit Meets the Bone is Williams' first album for her own label, Highway 20 Records, giving her complete control over the creative process, and though this doesn't always sound like an album where Williams is challenging herself musically, for a musician who has long believed in the power of nuance, this is an album that feels unerringly right for her, full of sweet and sour blues, acoustic pondering, and simple, bare bones rock & roll that slips into the groove with Williams' literate but unpretentious songs.