Lucinda Williams | Park West | Rock, Pop, Etc | Chicago Reader

Lucinda Williams Recommended 18+ Early Warnings (Music) Soundboard

When: Sat., May 21, 8 p.m. and Sun., May 22, 8 p.m. 2011

Lucinda Williams has never made a bad record, but she hasn't made a great one in more than a decade. She set an impossibly high standard for herself in 1998 with the perfect Car Wheels on a Gravel Road (Mercury), and though the new Blessed (Lost Highway) likewise fails to reach that level, it's her best since then. Williams's strongest material tends to be fueled by misery, so it's good to hear that even though she's now happily married to former Universal executive Tom Overby her writing hasn't slipped. Even the sweetest, most tender songs on the new album—like the quasi-lullaby "Born to Be Loved," where the protagonist strives to preserve a newborn's innocence, or the title track, where Williams wonders at random acts of kindness and selflessness—aren't cloying in the slightest. That's not to say Williams has turned into a Pollyanna: on "Buttercup" she cuts off an abusive, manipulative former lover with searing bluntness, and on the poetic "Soldier's Song" she alternates between the narrator's brutal war experience and the simplicity of his wife and child's lives back home. The melodies and arrangements on Blessed are just as effective as the lyrics; they underline the dissolute melancholy of "Copenhagen" (about learning of a friend's passing) and the inchoate rage of "Seeing Black" (a litany of questions about the reasons for a suicide). And Williams's voice—which combines sensuality, vulnerability, and strength with alchemical grace—remains as remarkable as ever. —Peter Margasak

Price: $40

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