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Lucinda Williams
journeys West

Lucinda Williams - West
(Lost Highway Records)
3 stars (out of 5 stars)
Reviewed: April 8, 2007
Lucinda Williams

Review by Tony Bonyata

As nearly perfect as a singer/songwriter Lucinda Williams is, nobody really expects that she'll ever hit the perfection created on her undeniable 1998 masterpiece Car Wheels on a Gravel Road, a record which helped jump-start the popularity of Americana music and the whole alt-country movement in the early '90s. As good as that record is, however, Williams has often achieved similar heights - if only momentarily - on her three proper studio efforts following the lawn-job Car Wheels did on modern country music nearly a decade ago.

Her latest effort, West, is no exception and there are some remarkable songs expertly played out here, such as the introspective opener "Are You Alright?," where Williams' comforting vocal delivery drapes over the simple country-laced arrangement as she lovingly asks, "Do you have someone to hang out with? Do you have someone to hug and kiss you? Are you alright?" Her vocals take on a rough-hewn, road-weary sense of somber on more than one number. On "Learning How To Live" her husky pipes mirror the hardships of carrying on beyond a failed relationship, while a jaunty piano-line adds a singular sense of hope towards the future.

But throughout much of this record - as is also evident throughout a good portion of her previous work - she tends to dwell on love, or more appropriately lost love. and it ultimately brings things down. Despite a haunted beauty that floats alongside an ethereal pedal steel and specter-like organ on "Rescue" the net result is desolate and downtrodden. The same can also be said for the ambling, aimlessness of "Mama You Sweet." Where Williams once angrily tracked down her own sense of self-satisfaction on the spirited song "Joy" from Car Wheels , on her new track "Everything Has Changed" she now succumbs to her loss as she aches, "All the magic vanished into the misty air, and I can't find my joy anywhere," and from the sounds of it, she's no longer in search of it.

Williams does manage to kick up some dust, as witnessed on "Come On" where the band gets their ya-yas out with a spirited jam straight out Crazy Horse's songbook. She also revisits her dry, country-gal style of rapping on "Wrap My Head Around That," which ultimately ends up chasing its own tail with a tired vocal delivery that rambles on for over nine long minutes.

While there's definitely some moments on Lucinda's latest which can be overlooked, there's still enough gold to be mined from this album to make the journey West worthwhile.

Watch Lucinda Williams' - "Are You Alright?" video

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