Lucinda Williams

By - Jun 1st, 2003 02:52 pm
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By John Hughes

The brilliant Ms. Williams, 50 year old alt-country chanteuse, angst goddess, poet and daredevil, has added nine great new songs to her legacy as one of the most underrated songwriters in a generation.

World Without Tears was recorded live, and the results are incandescent. Never before has Lucinda sounded so raw and exposed. Her singing is ringed with fire. Never before has her band sounded so hot and free. For nine songs, she rocks, rages, mourns the world’s pains, declares her love, flirts, yearns, and tells the hidden truth. It’s exhilarating, gorgeous music ‘n message.

Of course, there are more than nine songs on this album. There are thirteen, and the four lesser ones are ballast, which weighs the ship down a little. Her anger at the preachers she was subjected to during her Nashville years, expressed in “Atonement,” and her grief over life here, emoted in “American Dream,” are not served by songs worthy of Lucinda Williams. But even in these, the musicianship behind her and the intelligent lyrics she’s written manage to limit the damage.

Much is being made of the concept that with this record she’s leaving her Americana roots behind. It’s true, you can hear more of Keith Richards, Paul Westerberg and Patti Smith between the grooves than you can of Loretta Lynn. But Lucinda Williams has, for several years, been a musician beyond category, playing what moves her at the time, with all the greats imbedded in her soul. She’ll never not be alt-country. She’s just that and a whole lot more.

This is a marvelous CD.

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