Lucinda Williams

Although Williams garnered fewer bad reviews during the past decade than Mother Teresa, early notices bestowed upon West have been decidedly mixed, for obvious reasons. Simply put, her latest CD's blend of dour sonics and lyrical brutality makes 1998's Car Wheels on a Gravel Road seem like a Spice Girls album by comparison. There are memorable moments here, but they're hard to find amid the creative misfires and emotional chaos.

Williams grapples with feelings stirred by her mother's death and a lover's departure, vacillating between demoralized morbidity (the heavy-handed "Fancy Funeral") and teeth-gritting defiance ("Wrap My Head Around That," a rambling chant that drags on for nine minutes). Producer Hal Wilner, who's overseen high-toned tributes to Nino Rota and Kurt Weill, gives such numbers an artsy patina that doesn't always work. But everything comes together on "Unsuffer Me," replete with a foreboding string chart, and "Come On," a messy rocker featuring the line "You can't light my fire, so fuck off."

On these last tracks, at least, West heads in the right direction.


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