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.
Blessed, the stunning new album from three-time Grammy Award-winner Lucinda Williams is set for release on March 1st 2011 by Lost Highway. Considered by many to be one of America's greatest living songwriters, Williams lives up to that and more by delivering 12 new songs that cover an even wider emotional spectrum than her previous work, without moving too far in any one direction. Blessed opens with the gritty kiss-off "Buttercup" then moves seamlessly into the sultry blues of "Born To Be Loved". Williams delves into a heavier subject as she questions the motives for a suicide on the hard-driving "Seeing Black", which features blistering guitar from Elvis Costello. The thoughtful title track slowly builds to a melodic climax as it offers an eye-opening look at what's right in front of us, but too often unnoticed.
Calling her own shots seems to agree with Lucinda Williams. While the singer/songwriter has long had a reputation for taking her time between albums, she's back with another double-disc set, The Ghosts of Highway 20, just a year-and-a-half later. She launched her own label with Down Where the Spirit Meets the Bone in the fall of 2014. In many ways, The Ghosts of Highway 20 feels like a companion piece to Down Where the Spirit Meets the Bone in its emotionally direct approach and willingness to let the songs play themselves out at their own pace. – they drift with the current, but they don't meander, and they get where they're going in their own sweet time.
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 does anguish so well it’s easy to forget that Happy Woman Blues is not just the title of her 1980 album, but also the way she thinks of herself. That identity comes across full force in Little Honey, the follow-up to 2007’s heavily brooding West, where her melancholy voice seemed to creak with sadness. Here, a full-throated Williams revels in the rejuvenation of her engagement to her manager/co-producer Tom Overby, over whom she’s positively giddy on "Real Love." Her newfound bliss opens the floodgates to a musical revival, as well, since Little Honey, her ninth studio album, ranks as one of her most diverse, ranging from pounding rock ‘n’ roll (the raw sex of the title track) to the Hank Williams-ish country blues of "Well, Well, Well," to "Knowing"'s ‘60s soul. But some of the finest writing appears on "Plan to Marry," as thoughtful a meditation on love as any time-honored sonnet. Just when Williams seems to have run the gamut, she pulls out a Stones-y (via Louisiana) cover of AC/DC’s "It’s a Long Way to the Top" as the punctuation mark. It all makes for a rollicking ride with one of roots-rock's most unpredictable and passionate artists.
Lucinda Williams has earned a reputation for her meticulous approach to making albums, but a careful listen to her work suggests that she isn't trying to make her music sound perfect, she just wants it to sound right, and she isn't afraid to spend the extra time waiting for the charmed moment to get caught on tape. This attitude seems to be borne out in her first-ever concert album, Live @ The Fillmore, which manages to sound carefully considered, and a model of "warts and all" authenticity at the same time.
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.