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Misled Paths Don't Detour Lucinda

Lucinda Williams

Lucinda Williams - World Without Tears
(Lost highway)
3 (out of 5 stars)
Reviewed: Mar. 29, 2003

Review by Tony Bonyata

From the dreamy, laid-back opening strains of Lucinda Williams' latest album, World Without Tears, it seems as though the ghosts that haunted the alt-country queen throughout her last beautifully tragic effort, Essence, might just be sticking around for a spell.
But after further inspection, Williams actually blends together successful elements from both of her last two masterpieces; the aching, desperate hope of Essence, along with the free-spirited, freight car jumping enthusiasm of its predecessor Car Wheels On A Gravel Road.
Despite the marriage of some of the best ingredients of previous efforts, World Without Tears, nonetheless, manages to fall slightly short of her recent productions.
You certainly can't blame her voice, as Williams is as passionate and soulful as ever. And the stripped down band she's chosen (Doug Pettibone on guitar, Taras Prodaniuk on bass and Jim Christie on drums and keys) certainly doesn't hurt either. From the scrappy Stones swagger of "Bleeding Fingers" to the deep, swampy blues groove flavored with pork fat on "Atonement," along with the sun-kissed balladry of "Ventura," the peaks and valleys
throughout the album feel like a Sunday morning drive through the Appalachian Mountains. Williams readily admits that this album shows all the different musical influences that have, unconsciously, entered into her life. While her subject matter still steers close to home - with themes dealing from painful relationships ("Over Time" and "Those Three Days"), the destructiveness of heroin ("American Dream" and "Bleeding Fingers") and child abuse ("Sweet Side") - a couple of other musical influences have seeped into her familiar mix of blues, country and rock. Sure, there's still vintage Lucinda here, as proved on the cocky "Righteously," filled with rocking roadhouse guitar leads, not to mention a wink and a nod to Jimi Hendrix, and "Those Three Days," with its sumptuous chorus, but for this album she's also added a couple of mild surprises that at times work and at others don't.
On both "Sweet Side" and The Doors-go-electro lounge number "American Dream," her unconscious influences take shape as the singer / songwriter delivers her narratives in a (now brace yourself, folks) rap-like manner. She also adds a folkie warble on the downtrodden number "Minneapolis." But despite branching out, neither of these stylings really do any justice to one of the strongest voices in music today.
"Everything is wrong," she moans over and over before the album finishes. And while there may be a couple of misled paths taken here, Lucinda is still doing most everything just the way it should be.

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