by Al Kaufman
Lucinda Williams, so wonderful when she sings of her pain and despair, is even better when she sings of her joy.
The recently engaged Williams opens her new disc with the blistering "Real Love." It has all the fire and passion of some of her greatest kiss-off tunes, yet this time with a happy message. She grunts and growls through the sexually charged "Honey Bee," complete with not so subtle innuendos. And for a woman who likes to pick a song from folkie Nick Drake to close out her albums, this time she chooses AC/DC’s "It’s a Long Way to the Top." Her slow drawl makes the song bristle with energy.
Her token kiss-off song, "Jailhouse Tears," is practically played for laughs, as her three-time loser, alcoholic, drug addicted boyfriend takes off with her truck. The boyfriend is played by a vamping Elvis Costello, who returns the favor from when Williams appeared on "There’s a Story In Your Voice" off of his The Delivery Man CD.
The rest of the CD is typical Williams’ brilliance. Songs of love, vulnerability, and longing are vivid and poetic. "If wishes were horses/I’d buy me a ranch/Come on and give me another chance," she pleads on "If Wishes Were Horses." While on "Rarity" she sings to someone who could be a younger version of herself, an amazing talent who will never be a star, but instead get screwed over by the powers that be. The song’s bitterness is equally balanced by her love and admiration for the singer. It is a fragile, beautiful song.
Backed by Buick 6, this is quite possibly Williams’ most realized CD to date. That’s saying something for a woman who has already been called the greatest living American songwriter. Whether she turns on the twang, gets down and bluesy, or rocks out, the band is right there with her.
This is a happy and content Lucinda Williams. She has found her joy that she has been looking for these many years. And that means happiness for all of us.