There is something so pure and soulful about Lucinda Williams that despite the variety of categorizations she will inevitably receive with every new album, her music will remain a justifiably hard to reconcile fusion of folk, country, blues and rock music. On her first album in over five years Williams has succeeded in spinning a genuine yarn of beautiful songs and stories.
On “Car Wheels On A Gravel Road” Williams has created a sound that exists like a cross between Emmylou Harris, circa “Wrecking Ball,” and Bruce Springsteen, circa “Born To Run.” There is both a catchiness and a reassuring sense of genuine Americana that tends to define each of the thirteen songs on the album. Like Springsteen and Harris, Lucinda Williams’ songs reek of an intense but carefree blend of fiction and reality. Her vocals alternate between bright and ethereal and gruff and country, with the songs that blend country guitar melodies in a unique and timeless manner. For “Car Wheels on A Gravel Road” she was able to recruit everyone from Steve Earle to Charlie Sexton to contribute instrumental pieces.
Having spent much of her life traveling throughout the country, her music breathes a sense of movement and worldliness. On songs like “Greenville,” “Jackson”, and others she refers to specific places where things “have happened.” These happenings have been become memories activated, at times, by single words. On “Lake Charles” she captures entire memories in just a few words: “We used to drive / thru Lafayette and Baton Rouge / In a yellow El Camino / Listening to Howlin Wolf / he used to like to stop in Lake George / ‘Cause that’s the place he liked the best.”
For those of you turned off by the concept of country music, Lucinda Williams treats the genre as deftly as Tennessee Williams did Southern tragedy and Woody Allen does comedy. She is both an elegant lyricist and an inspiring vocalist. Although this comparison may seem a bit exaggerated, every art form deserves a few revolutionaries. Lucinda Williams has released only five albums in nearly twenty years, but they are all brilliant, in a way that few records ever are.