Thursday, December 4, 2008

Lucinda Returns from the West

Despite the fact that I have been listening to Lucinda Williams' latest album Little Honey off and on for a couple months now, I just seem to not get around to posting about it. There are a variety of reasons, but one of the main reasons was that so many folks seemed to be so happy about this album in juxtaposition to the previous release West. Here is Paste:
A sharp contrast to the studied tapestry of sound and embittered lyrics of West, Little Honey finds Williams in celebratory mode, with raucous rock, bluesy testimonies and tongue-in-cheek twang.
But all of these "thank God she is over that" comparisons made me keep thinking: "But I liked West!" More to the point, I kept going back and listening to the two albums, one against the other.

Sure, the new album is more upbeat and it definitely has the Lucinda swagger that you have to love, but dang people, West is about loss and hurt, and really does anyone do that better these days than Lucinda? The songs on West take anyone who has lost someone back to that moment in time and weep. They make jilted lovers remember both the hurt and anger. And they make anyone who has hurt another, feel the razor's edge of guilt and regret. Little Honey on the other hand makes you laugh, dance and nod knowingly.

All of which is not to say that I prefer West to Little Honey, but rather to say that they are apples and oranges in one sense, but in another they are all the fruit of Lucinda's emotions and that is what makes them so sweet (sorry, bad metaphor, but it just happened).

So let's talk just a little bit about the new effort which in overall is a really fine and fun album. It is confident with that don't mess with me--alright you can mess with me a little--attitude. The songs are varied both in style and content from honky tonk to blues to rock but they all express a certain sense that Williams is settling in with who she is. On West she longs for her Mama (who had recently passed) and tells her she's sweet, but on Little Honey, "she is gonna see her mother in heaven," not to mention "talk to God" and "set things straight."

Some have pointed out that the album is a bit inconsistent which I would sort of agree with (it might have been a couple songs shorter and I, too, would have lost the duet with Elvis Costello--despite loving the Elvis man). At the same time, I agree with those who have suggested that some of the nit-picky criticisms of this album are, in part, has to do with the bar being set high for Williams. If you had never heard Lucinda prior to this album, I think you would feel like you stumbled onto something great and that is something to remember. So, sure covering AC/DC is a bit silly, but I confess it makes me happy every time I hear it! And while it doesn't quite hold together as a perfect album, it is really an above average album--definitely worth a spin.

Here are a couple tracks to give you a sense, and since I spent more time than I meant covering West too, I have thrown in a couple from that album as well to give you a flavor if you don't have it.

From Little Honey (Buy Album)

Real Love
Heaven Blues

From West (Buy Album)

Mama You Sweet
Wrap My Head Around That

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