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Lucinda Williams

Blessed (Lost Highway)

Reviewed by Raoul Hernandez, Fri., March 18, 2011

SXSW Records

Lucinda Williams

Blessed (Lost Highway)

Some of the six years between Lucinda Williams' twin catalog pillars, 1992's Sweet Old World and 1998's Car Wheels on a Gravel Road, could have been spared to pad out the intermission between Blessed and its predecessor, 2008's Little Honey. In the aftermath of Car Wheels, Williams rambled for a decade with Essence (2001), World Without Tears ('03), and West ('07). Blessed doesn't sting like Little Honey, but if opener "Buttercup" sloshes frivolously first as an excuse for Williams to suck on its title with thick-tongued relish, that bottles Little Honey's loose fun. Messed could title "I Don't Know How You're Livin'" landing second in the lineup with a too-long run-time and a follow-the-groove groove, while "Copenhagen" next barely rallies more. "To Be Loved," then, blesses Blessed, a 1950s hotel room next to the neon sign outside, tube amps lit for love and heartbreak. Again following a vocal and musical vamp, this time the song's juju pulps 100%. And it's here that Blessed rallies. "Seeing Black" rocks loose and free, its guitars rough and ready and rustling touches of Sticky Fingers-era Stones on the succeeding "Soldiers Song," axed in part by Elvis Costello. Blessed guitars give 'til it hurts, such as the title track projecting "Moonlight Mile." Middle-class misfits "Sweet Love," "Ugly Truth," and "Convince Me" could take a powder, but the rapture of "Awakening" stirs a dragon. This goes on the mixtape with "Born To Be Loved." Closer "Kiss Like Your Kiss" bookends "Buttercup," another tree sap tongue smack and dillydally as unconcerned as the one at the start, but again, that's the point. The controlled recklessness of Little Honey was a long-awaited antidote to Car Wheels' strong medicine, and now Blessed basks in its older sibling's afterglow. A deluxe edition bonuses the whole album in demo mode from Lucinda Williams' kitchen table. Now that's sanctified. (Fri., 12mid, ACL Live at the Moody Theater)

***

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