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To celebrate the 25th anniversary of the original release of Sweet Old World singer-songwriter Lucinda Williams has released a re-recording of the album. Only this time she has added some new arrangements and re-record four cuts that failed to make the original 12 song set. Now featuring 16 songs, and entitled This Sweet Old World the record is a big one. One track “He Never Got Enough Love” has a new lyrics and title in “Drivin’ Down A Dead End Street”; the reason behind the new title is down to Bob Dylan having a song similar on his latest record, and well spotted by Williams who thought it best make a change.
One aspect that’s pretty much undeniable is the fact her work back then was more instantly attractive (than some of her later work), addictive even. Far less complicated, and easier accessed new listeners or converts who for some reason have yet to purchase Sweet Old World (co-produced by Williams, Gurf Morlix and Dusty Wakeman) they are in for a treat. The original album figured in between albums, Lucinda Williams and Car Wheels On A Gravel Road. This Sweet Old World is produced by Williams and her husband, Tom Overby who first suggested she should re-record the record, and it has Williams sound better than she has in some time. Of this there is no doubt. Her voice sounds more relaxed, and less husky, less whiskey hued sounding. Her diction is also far better and she sounds like she is having a good time. Going back to the original, a big favourite of mine Williams reveals it was beset with problems. Among which she had a mismatch of producers sent her way (and dispatched). One of whom didn’t even know of Bob Dylan’s Blonde On Blonde; plus during the recording there were three or four label changes! This time the recording took all of 10 days.
Extended lead guitar, some steel guitar and with her ever brooding, and sometimes more world weary than others lead vocals from Lake Charles, Louisiana-born Williams sees the listener taken through a series of emotions and cold chills as she speaks of a mother abandoning her family, loneliness, suicide, alcohol abuse and making mistakes. Support comes from members of her road band; Stuart Mathis (lead guitar), David Sutton (bass guitar), Butch Norton (drums) and her old friend, west-coast session ace and more, Greg Leisz (steel guitar).
This Sweet Old World is also sequenced differently, and with such highlights as opening track “Six Blocks Away” and potent pieces “Memphis Pearl” and “Pineola” the standard is set. Plus with an addictive rock’n’roll beat the torch is well and truly ignited on “Lines Around Your Eyes”, it in turn is supported by slumbering ballad “Which Will” before introducing the listener to four additions.
First to appear is the aptly titled, raw blues steeped “Factory Blues” (we must not forget her first work on Smithsonian was blues folk!). It is followed by some fine work as Williams commands the listener’s attention on the spare (5-star) “Wild And Blue”, and with a stronger country feel (could be a nod to old country; Hank Williams, Hank Thompson etc) “Dark Side Of Life” as splashes of noteworthy acoustic guitar, and pedal steel escort the likewise superb Williams safely home.
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