Lucinda Williams provides instruction for those who feel fucked around and fobbed off at 40-something.
No second acts in American lives? Hogwash. Lucinda Williams provides instruction for those who feel fucked around and fobbed off at 40-something. Ten years ago (and 20 years after she released her first album, a collection of folk covers for Smithsonian/Folkways), she kickstarted her own comeback with Car Wheels On A Gravel Road, a record so perfectly written, crafted and executed it just couldn’t be denied.
Now a cool, kohl-eyed 55-year-old, the Louisiana songwriter’s ninth studio album finds her energised, focused and hungry. Lucinda, one figures, is the kind of gal who, when she doesn’t have a sweetheart in her life, will sleep with her telecaster. But she’s also got something of a nurturer in her soul. If in previous years she’s written compassionate tributes like ‘Drunken Angel’ for Blaze Foley, here she’s counselling little rock ‘n’ roll lambs and gifted callow souls in ‘Little Rock Star’ (reputedly inspired by a newspaper report about Pete Doherty) and ‘Rarity’.
Throughout Little Honey the production is clear and punchy, the playing skilled but just on the right side of sloppy, and the songs are strong as any she’s recorded. Most of these tunes join the dots between George Jones, the Replacements and Big Star: the country soul ballad ‘Tears Of Joy’, the devastated ‘If Wishes Were Horses’ (maybe the best take-me-back song since ‘Reconsider Me’), or ‘Circles And X’s’ and ‘Jailhouse Tears’, all Stonesy guitars, Muscle Shoals swing and wrung out vocals.
But it’s not all downbeat: there’s also the pure pop surge of ‘Real Love’, the garage raunch of ‘Honey Bee’ and a cover of AC/DC’s ‘It’s A Long Way To The Top’ that finds the morality tale at the heart of Young, Young and Scott’s ripsnorter without losing any of the grit.
Little Honey is sweet indeed.