It seems that Lucinda has finally made the ‘mature but hip’ album that we’ve all...
Chris Jones 2007
If there was one thing that hampered Williams’ work in the past it was the reliance on too many rockist tropes that allowed her to rail against former lovers and bad blood with a angry authenticity but little subtlety; especially in a live context. Like younger fellow-traveller, Ryan Adams, her heart-on-sleeve recounting of love’s travails often sank too often into whisky-soaked self-indulgence, albeit wrapped in purest poetry. It seems that what she needed was a decent producer and on West, Hal Willner seems to be filling those shoes most adequately.
Apart from her awesome way with a lyric, Williams’ main strength is her voice. Pitched somewhere between Tom Petty and Courtney Love – her fearlessness in presenting a mature woman’s take on love and loss remains astounding; if somewhat uncomfortable for men of a certain age. Willner’s genius has been to strip her original recordings back down to the bone with just her and guitarist Doug Pettibone, and then adding backing that focuses on rather than burying, the emotional tug of her words and voice.
Aiding Willner in this are luminaries such as the ubiquitous Bill Frisell (who seems equally at home these days in Nashville as in New York jazz clubs) and session drummer supreme – Jim Keltner. If some people may object to the smoothing of Williams’ rougher edges, it still results in perhaps her most consistent album yet. Her vision is still as hard hitting as ever with subjects such as ex-lovers (“Learning How To Live”, “Come On”), death (Fancy Funeral) and the failings of men (“Rescue”) and, of course, sexuality (“Words”) all bleakly nailed. But somehow it’s all more palatable with such sensitive support. It seems that Lucinda has finally made the ‘mature but hip’ album that we’ve all been waiting for.