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Lonesome Lucinda Williams Heads 'West'


The songwriter and singer Lucinda Williams writes songs that are full of melancholy and personal history. She made music for nearly two decades, releasing albums sporadically before she won a Grammy in 1998. Since then, Williams has become more prolific. Still, the four-year wait since her last CD might be considered a quick turnaround.

Meredith Ochs has a review of the singer's eighth studio CD, called "West."

MEREDITH OCHS: Lucinda Williams' aching Louisiana drawl embodies the twisted roadmap of the American South in all its languid heat and inscrutability. She fills her songs with tales of thorny relationships, and a deep sense of restlessness.

Her new CD is a mostly down tempo meditation on the death of her mother and the end of a particularly turbulent love affair. Yet Williams was not prone to florid descriptions. Instead, she's a master of distilling vast, complicated emotions into a few evocative words.


LUCINDA WILLIAMS: (Singing) Are you all right? All the sudden you went away. Are you all right? I hope you come back around someday. Are you all right? I haven't seen you in a real long time. Are you all right? Could you give me some kind of sign? Are you all right? I looked around me and you were gone. Are you all right?

OCHS: This new Lucinda Williams CD is an inspired collaboration with producer Hal Willner, who's best known for eclectic tributes to composers like Kurt Weill and Carl Stalling.

Willner brought along innovative musicians who are also well versed in American roots music, like guitarist Bill Frisell and drummer Jim Keltner. They enable Williams to explore new sonic palates, while staying completely faithful to her artistry. Listen to how the ensemble creates a hypnotic drone on this song, echoing the foggy pain of a loss that's just too heavy to comprehend.


WILLIAMS: (Singing) I love you, mama, you sweet. I love you, mama, you sweet. I love you, mama, you sweet. There's that ocean in my spirit. It cries through my lips. It scars in my heart. And it's burning on my hips. An ocean becomes heavy, and tries to push its way out of the ancient eye, and the memory is my mouth.

OCHS: When she released the Grammy-winning CD "Car Wheels on Gravel Road" in 1998, Lucinda Williams' songwriting has grown increasingly dark and intensely personal - sometimes uncomfortably so. But her new CD offers something that the lost two were short on, and that's hope. Maybe you never really get over a devastating loss or heartbreak, but according to Williams, at least it's possible to learn how to live with them.


NORRIS: The new CD from Lucinda Williams is called, "West". Our reviewer, Meredith Ochs, is DJ on Sirius Satellite Radio's "Outlaw Country" channel.


WILLIAMS: (Singing) I'm learning how to live without you in my life.


You're listening to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Meredith Ochs