Her follow-up to West
Jon Lusk 2008
Lucinda Williams has been recording since 1979, but used to drop albums only once in a proverbial blue moon. The Grammy-winning masterpiece Car Wheels On A Gravel Road (1998) seemed to spur her song writing muse and she's been more prolific and less concerned with quality control ever since, releasing five of her ten albums in the new millennium.
Little Honey arrives just over a year after West, and although it's more diverse in terms of styles, moods and tempos, apparently most of it was originally written for that album. It would be churlish to call Little Honey a collection of off-cuts, but it does suffer from the same problem as its predecessor – an over-long album with too much filler.
Not that there aren’t plenty of reasons to be cheerful about Little Honey. A clutch of dirty R&B/boogie flavoured rockers make this Williams' most upbeat and generally positive album to date. Real Love is a powerful opener, and Honey Bee stomps convincingly, although the closing cover of AC/DC's classic Long Way To The Top suffers from a lack of bagpipes, not to mention the chrome-plated howl of the late Bon Scott. Nice try, anyway.
Little Rock Star makes the most of Williams' famously bedraggled drawl, with great backing vocals by Susannah Hoffs and Matthew Sweet. Well Well Well is a pleasantly bobbing country gospel piece featuring Jim Lauderdale and Charlie Louvin of country legends The Louvin Brothers. Its authentically understated old-time guitar contrasts with the sleazy chops elsewhere by Doug Pettibone and former Eels member Chet Lyster. Elvis Costello makes a surprisingly good match for Williams on the clichéd but clever duet Jailhouse Tears – evoking his Almost Blue phase – and the gorgeous, languid country ballad Wishes Were Horses is the best thing of all.
On the down side, when Williams emulates her icons too faithfully, as she does on Heaven Blues, she's less than convincing. The similarly bluesy Tears Of Joy is a rewrite of Still I Long For Your Kiss, Rarity a ponderous and uneventful eight and a half minutes, and Plan To Marry best not engaged with.