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Southern songbird blessed
Lucinda Williams - Blessed
Review by Tony BonyataAfter ten studio albums, three Grammy Awards, massive critical acclaim and decades of living the life of a true musical troubadour, Lucinda Williams could easily pack it all up and rest comfortably on her magnificent laurels. Yet instead this undisputed queen of Americana music has produced one of her strongest efforts to date on the recently released album Blessed. While these dozen songs may not trump her crowning achievement to date, 1998's Car Wheels On A Gravel Road, it, nonetheless, features many similar elements that made that record so special; beautiful lyrics filled with grit, sorrow and hope, and tunes with such strong, yet simple songcraft they sound like they've been handed down through the ages. Add in production values that are direct and clean, yet allow for a cloud of dust to rise when the band cuts loose on some of the more spirited arrangements, and it's obvious that Williams has tapped into a winning formula.
While she hasn't always utilized this formula since the release of Car Wheels, it's the one that continues to win over fans and critics alike. While the beauty of the gentler slow-burn folk of her 2001 Essence album and more restrained 2007 full-length, West, took time to fully mature, Blessed (like Car Wheels) hits the mark immediately.
While Williams has oftened shared her love, lust and ultimately failed relationships with drunks, drifters, gamblers and other questionable types in her songs, now that she's happily married, the 58 year-old artist exudes a sense of contentment that warmly glows from deep within. Songs such as the tender title track finds the singer filled with forgiveness and positively that, along with the breathy gospel vibe of the Hammond organ, a stinging electric guitar and Lucinda's sensual honey-and-bourbon southern drawl, is hard not to get swept up in. She further explores matters of the heart on the rough-hewn folk balladry of "Sweet Love" and "Kiss Like Your Kiss."
Thankfully though, domestic bliss has not jeopardized her creative spirit - whether singing from the heart, telling a former lover to kiss-off (on the sturdy Americana opening "Buttercup"), or questioning suicidal thoughts and motives (on "Seeing Black" which also finds Elvis Costello offering a smoldering lead-guitar on the track). While the album doesn't really have any tried-and-true rockers, there are still a number of songs that find Lucinda's fantastic group of players firing on all cylinders and adding a sweaty and sinewy dynamic. And if all this wasn't enough, there's always the one common denominator that makes every one Lucinda's albums a treat - her voice, one that drapes over the melodies and choruses like a warm blanket fresh from the dryer. Sensuous and sultry with a hint of sorrow, this Southern songbird has, once again, delivered in spades.
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