LUCINDA WILLIAMS "Little Honey" Lost Highway

Friday, February 27, 2009

LUCINDA WILLIAMS "Little Honey" Lost Highway

LUCINDA WILLIAMS'S lyrical prowess and intensity are in full swing on "Little Honey," her fifth studio album in 10 years. "I write about my life," she says in an interview, "I'm always scribbling lines in my notebook. In some ways, 'Little Honey' comes back full circle to 'Car Wheels on a Gravel Road' [her 1998 album]. It's like 'Car Wheels'-plus."

Williams credits the simplicity of Bob Dylan's "Time Out of Mind" for liberating her songwriting process and helping her realize that "every song doesn't have to be a complex, tragic narrative." Like her previous recordings, "Little Honey" includes impressionistic narratives embroidered in twang, rock, blues and gospel. But unlike her well-known tales of busted love affairs, many of the songs make it evident that the Southern poetess is in love. (Even the liner notes celebrate her matrimonial delight with manager-producer Tom Overby.)

On "Real Love" she declares, "I've found the love I've been looking for." In "Tears of Joy" she asserts, "I've been a mess, misguided and lost/But I've been so blessed since our paths have crossed." The beautiful "Knowing" acknowledges, "I didn't know/What love meant before . . ./And the knowing is all there is/About yes."

"Honey Bee" and "It's a Long Way to the Top" are straightforward rockers, and "Jailhouse Tears" features a lovely duet with Elvis Costello. The deeply personal "Heaven Blues" is a haunting, wrenching missive to Williams's deceased mother. "Plan to Marry" meditates on love in a world "where leaders can't be trusted."

Music seems to flow through Williams. "If you're a true artist, you keep learning. You don't stop," she says. "Little Honey" enriches and extends the canon of an extraordinary songwriter, an American original at the peak of her powers.

-- Ernest Suarez

Appearing Tuesday and Wednesday at the 9:30 club (202-265-0930, Doors open at 7 p.m.

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