Lucinda Williams is not what you would call a prolific artist. However, there is an argument to be made that quality generally trumps quantity, and that is certainly true in this case.
The album opens with the upbeat Real Love, the poppy nature of which contrasts nicely with Williams’ deep and substantial voice. Circles and Xs brings us down south with a definite hint of twang. Tears of Joy evokes a 1960s motown ballad. Little Rock Star has shades of Janis Joplin-esque disillusionment. On Honey Bee, Williams is free to let loose her gravelly belt and it feels as if it’s been held captive up to this point. On Well Well Well, one can hear definite tones of Roy Orbison and Johnny Cash. On If Wishes Were Horses, you can actually feel the protagonist’s agony as she pleads, “Come on and give me one more chance.” Jailhouse Tears provides the welcome novelty of a duet. On Knowing, we are again transported to another decade, this one reminiscent of a yearning 1970s folk ballad – and then it’s back to the 1930s on Heaven Blues. Rarity is the most experimental of the bunch, with ethereal undertones. Plan to Marry provides the most conventionally “pretty” melody on the album. The effort ends with the gritty It’s a Long Way to the Top, which details a long and hard life.
The journey of the CD as whole definitely feels like a progression from the upbeat to the melancholy, and you have to wonder if that’s an intentional message conveyed by this artist, who’s voice is the perfect vehicle to capture the hard times that so many people are experiencing as this album is released.