CD Review of Little Honey by Lucinda Williams
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Lucinda Williams: Little Honey

Reviewed by Lee Zimmerman

espite her unobtrusive beginnings via a series of albums on small labels, and a style of music that mined mostly traditional tunes, Lucinda Williams has, over the past 20 years or so, gained a reputation as one of the most incisive artists working in the wider realm of roots music. Since those unassuming beginnings, she’s subsequently expanded her palette, achieving a mix that encompasses equal shares of country, folk, rock and blues. Williams’ classic albums -- Sweet Old World , Car Wheels on a Gravel Road and World Without Tears chief among them -- garnered her reams of critical acclaim and Grammy recognition, while boosting her status as an A list artist. At the same time, her songwriting resume has come to include such high-profile clientele as Emmylou Harris and Tom Petty, further elevating her standing as a singer/songwriter of special significance. Consequently, each new effort has become eagerly anticipated, leading to high expectations for Little Honey, and the sense that further achievements are yet to come.

As a result, it’s almost expected that this latest attempt will be well received by fans and pundits alike. However, what was likely less of a given was how much of a change it would represent in terms of her usual M.O. In the past, Williams hasn’t always presented herself as the most agreeable individual, at least when it came to her tone and temperament. Despite her penchant for crafting durable melodies, she’s always seemed to grapple with issues that reflected a downcast perspective and dashed expectations. Now, after years spent venting frustration and furtive desire, Williams opts to pull back the reins, giving voice to her current and apparently more contented state of affairs.

Lucinda Williams

Consequently, Little Honey finds an adjustment in her mindset, and a significant one at that. Opening track “Real Love” offers first hints; following its symbolic false start, Williams waxes enthusiastically about finally finding romantic satisfaction (“I found the love I’ve been looking for…”). Other songs aren’t so sonically effusive, but even the slow, low, bluesy rumble of “Tears of Joy,” “The Knowing” and “Heaven Blues,” and the downcast desire of “Wishes Were Horses” and “Rarity” ruminate with a soulful serenity she’s rarely evidenced before. So too, while the down-home romp “Well Well Well” and the tenacious Elvis Costello duet “Jailhouse Tears” maintain a brash country connection reminiscent of her earlier albums, Little Honey could be considered her sweetest effort yet.

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