Like most people, I was late in discovering Lucinda Williams, though while they found out about her from Car Wheels On A Gravel Road (1998), I arrived at the much later West (2006). In time to catch some of what would become my favourite Americana songs in Learning How To Live and Everything Has Changed.
Since then, I’ve gotten to know Lucinda through her blunt, to-the-point songwriting and gritty performances that range from soulful to classic country to folk rock. Her albums can be challenging to approach but given the time, she can puncture just the right spot. And I would never pass up the opportunity to see her perform live.
On Down Where The Spirit Meets The Bone, Lucinda seems to have struck a different chord. That she started it off with Compassion tells us several things. Firstly, the song is expanded from a poem written by her father Miller Williams, which adds that deeply emotional component right from the get-go. As a songwriter, she knows her limits when she can’t say something better than has already been said. It’s also very wise. Give compassion to everyone. “You do not know what wars are going on/down there where the spirit meets the bone.”
That song sets the tone for what seems to be a period of stability.
In Foolishness, Lucinda is frank about her desire to rid herself of the sour relationships she’s held onto. “All of this foolishness in my life/don’t need it.” When I Look At The World sees glory despite bad situations. “then I look at the world and all its glory/I look at the world and it’s a different story.” While both Stowaway In Your Heart and Stand By Each Other are both appreciative of having that other person to stand with, the latter taking a page from the book Bonnie Raitt.
Lucinda isn’t all rainbows and buttercups, for those expecting the raw truth. She’ll still tell you right where to go: “As far as I can tell/you are history/You can go straight to hell/That’s alright with me,” from Big Mess, while in Cold Day In Hell, she sings “Before I Trust You Again…it’ll be a cold, cold day in hell.”
The record is her most consistent in a while. Being a double-album of 20 tracks over 100 minutes, it was an intimidating collection to jump into but easing into it wasn’t difficult. Down Where The Spirit Meets The Bone has the potential to be a late-career classic among Lucinda’s discography with songs that truly show the best of the style she’s become known for, both musically and lyrically.
Tracklisting Disc 1:
3. Burning Bridges
4. East Side Of Town
5. West Memphis
6. Cold Day In Hell
8. Wrong Number
9. Stand Right By Each Other
10. It’s Gonna Rain
1. Something Wicked This Way Comes
2. Big Mess
3. When I Look At The World
4. Walk On
5. Temporary Nature (Of Any Precious Thing)
6. Everything But The Truth
7. This Old Heartache
8. Stowaway In Your Heart
9. One More Day