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LUCINDA WILLIAMS —DOWN WHERE THE SPIRIT MEETS THE BONE (Highway 20 Records)

 

www.lucindawilliams.com

 

 

Not content with one album, Lucinda Williams’ latest release is a twin-CD, 20-song package. A big body of work in more ways than one, an album hers fans and others are likely to return to time and time again, discovering something new on every visit.

 

Full of grit her songs are steeped in angst and biting electric guitar and punchy rhythm the listener is taken along a highway rich in rock, blues and country-steeped songs. Williams doesn’t hesitate, never mind stop at crossroads or any other kind of stop sign. Never has. She is a rebel, her own person no concessions whatsoever are made and she isn’t afraid to breech music’s boundaries. Sounding as sharp as ever, Williams’ thrusting style is augmented by a long list of genuine star players. As in Bill Frisell, Tony Joe White, Ian MacLagan, Elvis Costello’s rhythm section; Pete Thomas (drums), Davy Faragaher (bass) and Wallflowers guitarist Stuart Mathis to go with the efforts of band members Butch Norton (drums) and David Sutton (bass), and Greg Leisz (producer alongside Williams and her husband, Tom Overly). Of whom Williams has this to say; “he’s the glue that holds the whole thing together”. For her not to use the steel, slide playing Leisz would have been a huge waste, bordering on crazy, and when it comes to choices regards music she doesn’t make too many poor decisions, or prone to ignoring a gift horse.

 

 

With a view that the record is one of country soul Williams rises to the challenge of swirling keyboards, festering electric guitar and rocking rhythm as she reels off songs “Big Mess”, timeless reflective composition “When I look At The World”, pleading and powerful “Walk On” and with a raw, honest as the day is long grit “Everything But the Truth”.  Plus with a flowing feel “Stowaway In Your Heart” prior to the record surprisingly closing without any fireworks. Considering those to come before this is disappointing, but that may be me being a little over critical because it is near impossible to deliver twenty top-notch songs out of twenty! Songs like “Protection”, “East Side Of Town” and the fabulous, brooding “West Memphis”. This as she lay speaks of how they do things down there by way of the story of how three people were wrongly convicted, and how nobody would listen and of false evidence. Spiced with superb harmonica it bleeds strength of character. Although the song could have been bigger with additional lyrics, an opportunity missed? Possibly. Better in content being the dreamy “Wrong Number” and crisp “Stand Right By Each Other” as Lucinda explains how it has to be if things are going to work out, and by all account life is good right now for her. Going back to the song to close the album, “Magnolia” (JJ Cale) at eight minutes it is too long, and less impressive than the only other cover on the record. Her conversion of a poem of her father, poet Miller Williams “Compassion”. Which tends to drag, dirge-like on occasions the strength of the piece gets to rise, fiercelessly as she lays down the rules where compassion is concerned.   

 

                                                            Maurice Hope     

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Year 2016

1
Levi Parham
90 pts.
These American Blues
Music Road Records
GC,JBO,TK
2
Martha Fields
86 pts.
Southern White Lies
Independent
BP,BH,FB,JAB,RW,SP
3
Carter Sampson
75 pts.
Wilder Side
Independent/CRS
AN,CRS,JB
4
Anna Elizabeth Laube
65 pts.
Tree
Ahh...Pockets! Records
DH,NC
5
Michael McDermott
60 pts.
Willow Springs
Pauper Sky Records
BK,MM
6
Shovels & Rope
54 pts.
Little Seeds
New West
 
7
Robert Ellis
53 pts.
Robert Ellis
New West Records
DHO
8
Sturgill Simpson
52 pts.
A Sailor’s Guide to Earth
Atlantic Records
JJ,JF
9
Douglas Greer
50 pts.
Baja Louisiana
Zilker Park Records
HDB,ML
10
Lucinda Williams
46 pts.
The Ghosts Of Highway 20
Highway 20 Records
EM
11
Buddy Miller & Friends
44 pts.
Cayamo Sessions at Sea
New West Records
 
12
Wink Burcham
43 pts.
Cleveland Summer Nights
Continental Song City
 
13
Eric Brace & Peter Cooper
42 pts.
C&O Canal
Red Beet Records
BR
14
Brent Cobb
41 pts.
Shine On A Rainy Day
Elektra Records
HH
 
Daniel Romano
41 pts.
Mosey
New West
CVL
 
Leonard Cohen
41 pts.
You Want it Darker
Sony Music
HO
17
Christian Kjellvander
40 pts.
A Village: Natural Light
Tapete Records
BM
18
Drive-By Truckers
39 pts.
American Band
ATO Records
AR,EZ
19
Birds of Chicago
38 pts.
Real Midnight
Five Head Entertainment
LM,SZ
20
John Prine
37 pts.
For Better, or Worse
Oh Boy Records
FS,MB
21
The Cactus Blossoms
36 pts.
You’re Dreaming
Red House Records
GS,HD
22
Richmond Fontaine
35 pts.
You Can’t Go Back
Décor Records
FCE
23
Gillian Welch
34 pts.
Boots No.1: The Official Revival Bootleg
Acony Records
LK,PR,TJ
24
Sarah Jarosz
33 pts.
Undercurrent
Sugar Hill
RM
25
Joe Purdy
32 pts.
Who Will Be Next?
Mudtown Crier Records
AL
 
The Devil Makes Three
32 pts.
Redemption & Ruin
New West

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