Lucinda Williams

Record Review

Phases and Stages

Lucinda Williams

World Without Tears (Lost Highway) Lucinda Williams' third album in six years opens with "Fruits of My Labor," a tune so lonesome it'd be perfect for closing time at a saloon near the end of the world. It's a bold move kicking off the disc this way, especially considering that what follows only occasionally matches its languid beauty. Coming on the heels of 2001's Essence, a morose, understated album that still divides her fans into those that get it and those that don't, World Without Tears isn't likely to offer any reconciliation. And yet, Williams continues taking chances, lyrically and stylistically, but with a success rate that would only be acceptable of someone with less songwriting talent. The shrill rant "Atonement" circles the blues, musically, and gospel, lyrically, but comes off as sad second cousin of tunes from the past like "Joy" and "Changed the Locks." On the ethereal "Minneapolis," Williams moves to her jilted self, left alone and longing for a lover to return, a subject she's captured expansively and with finer detail in the past. Some will be put off by the way Williams raps her way through the jazz-inflected "American Dream," but she captures the underbelly of that fantasy in a way only someone like Patti Smith could match. A high point is the awkwardly titled "Real Live Bleeding Fingers and Broken Guitar Strings," a Stonesy rocker with a confident swagger. It sticks out from the rest of the album's unrelenting melancholy and makes one wish for more moments like it, when unfortunately, none can be found.

***

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