Lucinda Williams West

Lucinda Williams West
Having reached an exalted plateau amongst fellow singer/songwriters, any new collection from Lucinda Williams comes with great expectations. The burden placed on West may be heavier than usual, since it’s been nearly four years since World Without Tears, an album that found her in top form as a writer while at the same time exploring exciting new sonic territory. Placed in that context, West initially sounds like a return to the safer adult-alternative pastures of 2001’s Essence, with its generally dour, mid-tempo pace. Yet this is the setting where Williams’s talents often shine brightest. As the 13 tracks on West unfold, you can feel the sadness literally dripping from each of them. Much of this effect is due to Hal Willner’s rich, swirling production, which often reflects the multi-layered pastiche of Bob Dylan’s Time Out Of Mind. It’s especially effective in heightening the desperation of "Fancy Funeral” and "Unsuffer Me,” but Williams strikes the strongest emotional chords on "Everything Has Changed” and "Come On.” The former is a straightforward cry for help, while the latter is her most vicious break-up song yet, and she’s written a few. By this point in the record it’s impossible for Williams to abandon her journey to the end of the night, as she conjures a wide variety of demons at will. The key to her brilliance is always having control of those demons. But turning them completely loose all over West is ultimately the source of its power, making it her darkest and most rewarding album yet. (Lost Highway)