Wednesday, 31 December 2014

Lucinda Williams- Where The Spirit Meets The Bone

Double albums are always a risk for any artist, there is always the danger of a flat spot, double albums can be very uneven it's hard to keep up the momentum over four sides. I was surprised when it was announced that Lucinda Williams' new album would be a double and that it would feature new self penned material. Over the last few years Williams has not been known as the most prolific writer, yet somehow she has assembled 20 strong songs on this album. Traversing the Americana landscape Down Where The Spirit Meets The Bone melds crunchy rock and roll, sweet southern soul and William's own personified out by the back roads style country.

Williams is in a reflective frame of mind, starting off in incongruous fashion with the lo fi acoustic Compassion which is based on a poem written by her father Miller,

Have compassion for everyone you meet
Even if they don't want it
What seems like conceit
Is always a sign
Is always a sign

Protection has Williams reflecting that her path has been of her own choosing and has shaped who she is, she wants protection from the enemies of what makes life so important, love and righteousness, this all set against a backdrop of stripped back rock and roll. East Side of Town is angrier, a little cynical with the view that good words don't necessarily match good deeds especially when it comes to those on the other side of town.

You got your ideas and visions
And you say you sympathise
You look but you don't listen
There's no empathy in your eyes
You make deals and problems
And everybody bows down
And now you wanna come shake my hand
On the east side of town.

Th low down funky West Memphis is a scathing indictment on the treatment of the West Memphis 3, it's appropriate in musical terms that the brilliant Tony Joe White add his swamp guitar and scattergun harmonica to the mix. Cold Day In Hell is all soul with Williams defiant and unforgiving, her songwriting is never lacking in forthrightness which is what makes her such a great artist, and one that impacts the listener with every album she releases. Stand Right By Each Other sounds like it could have come from the pen of Dan Penn  and Spooner Oldham, it's a message of unity and support with Patrick Warren providing some nice organ work.

Where side one starts off on an optimistic refrain, side two offers a more ominous view of the future, Something Wicked This Way Comes features some more downhome fretwork from Tony Joe White sounding like he summoning a creature out of a Louisiana swamp.

Something wicked this way comes
The likes of which you have never known
Hellfire and brimstone
Something wicked this way comes

Big Mess is classic Williams, angry and unrepentant moving on in a slightly damaged and uncertain manner. It's also an insightful look into how we deal with our world today.

But I got a handle on things
Yeah I got my prescription
I changed the channel
I stopped my subscription 

When I look at the World is another reflective vignette for all her trials she sees a beauty in what the world gives and offers. Walk On is a message to those coming through from the perspective of done it all and seen it all Williams acts as mentor and the voice of experience.

You Got The World in the palm of your hand
You gotta make them understand
That you're the lead singer in the band
So walk on
C'mon girl walk on.

Down Where The Spirit Meets the Bone is a richly rewarding listen, Williams lyrics are refreshing and insightful. She has a masterful backing band that create a tight soulful groove with lots of grunt and melodic surprises. Featured on the album are the likes of Greg Leisz who has worked with the likes of Eric Clapton, Ray LaMontagne, Bill Frisell and a host of other sessions. The same goes for drummer Pete Thomas who brings a solid rhythm presence to everything he plays, from his days with Elvis Costello to his recent work with Jake Bugg. Davey Faragher appears on bass, he is a fellow alumni with Pete Thomas in Elvis Costello's current band the Imposters, he also previously played in the 90's indie band Cracker.

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