Lucinda Williams: World Without Tears (Lost Highway)

Lucinda Williams long ago mastered the art of using music to transmute pain to pleasure, and that mastery remains on blissful if sometimes blistering  display on her new Lost Highway release, World Without Tears.

Although it may not quite equal her 1988 Lucinda Williams disc or 1998’s Car Wheels on a Gravel Road , the new CD fascinates; like much of Williams’ work, it has a loveliness bordering on the abhorrent, the aural equivalent of stigmata. Not coincidentally—we are, after all, contemplating an artist whose last release, Essence from 2001, included a track entitled “Get Right With God”—certain of the 13 songs here seek to bridge the chasm between flesh and heaven. “Atonement,” the bluesy longest number, rumbles like the end of the world, “Ventura” lyrically blends the everyday and the ineffable with breathtaking skill, and in the treatment of its title, “Righteously” fuses the front pew and the back seat. (Four tracks later, incidentally, the hesitation of “Righteously” shades into the excoriating doubt of “Those Three Days,” a straight-razor anthem for the jilted.)

Other highlights of the disc include the languorous opener, “Fruits of My Labor”; Williams’ stinging paean to rock ’n’ roll in general and (perhaps) Keith Richards in particular, “Real Live Bleeding Fingers and Broken Guitar Strings”; and “Sweet Side,” the shortest track here, which movingly sketches both the blight of childhood abuse and the redemptive potential of adult love.

On the chorus to the eleventh track, “American Dream,” Williams (who will open for Neil Young at the UMB Bank Pavilion Sunday, August 10) drawls, “Everything is wrong.” Happily, on World Without Tears, the obverse mostly obtains.

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply