Singer/songwriter Lucinda Williams is an acquired taste. If you have it, Christmas came early this year with the release of her new double-disc Down Where the Spirit Meets the Bone. The set collects 19 new songs and a cover of the late J.J. Cale’s “Magnolia,” which is nine minutes of Williams’s Bayou roots and swampy guitar taking you on a hypnotic, soulful trip.
Williams’s honest lyrics, imperfect voice, and driving lead guitar have always been a window into her emotions and vulnerability. But on several songs on this album, she shows a new confidence coping with past grief and optimism for future possibilities.
“Walk On” is a hard-driving rocker with lyrics that put a boot to her past troubles: “You've got to make them understand you’re the lead singer in the band, so walk on.” “Protection” is another blaster with blues-rock guitars reminiscent of ZZ Top, as Williams, no longer the victim of love, sings “I need protection from the enemy of love.”
“West Memphis” is a Johnny Cash–style story song about an unsolved crime, with guest Tony Joe White's bluesy guitar and harp haunting the bottom range of the track, which has a retro, rusty John Fogarty sound. “This Old Heartache” is a classic tear-jerking country cut. And my personal favorite, “Stand Right by Me,” has a soulful groove with a catchy hook that lingers long after the song ends: “We gotta stand right by each other/ We gotta try harder/ I gotta stand right by you/ And you gotta stand right by me.”
If you are not familiar with the music of Lucinda Williams, these 20 songs are an appropriate inroad to her past 20 years. Not to mention a great value of two records for the price of one! And if you’re a seasoned fan, as I am, this is simply her best so far. But you probably already know that.
- Record: Down Where the Spirit Meets the Bone
- Artist: Lucinda Williams
- Label: Highway 20 Records
- Disc 1: (1) Compassion (2) Protection (3) Burning Bridges (4) East Side of Town (5) West Memphis (6) Cold Day in Hell (7) Foolishness (8) Wrong Number (9) Stand Right by Each Other (10) It's Gonna Rain;
- Disc 2: (1) Something Wicked This Way Comes (2) Big Mess (3) When I Look at the World (4) Walk On (5) Temporary Nature (6) Everything But the Truth (7) This Old Heartache (8) Stowaway in Your Heart (9) One More Day (10) Magnolia