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.
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 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.