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Published: 2008/10/20
by Brian Robbins

Little Honey – Lucinda Williams

Lost Highway

Hey Lucinda’s in love! That’s right; Lucinda Williams, the poster gal for, as she puts it, “boy meets girl; boy leaves girl; girl gets bummed out’ songs” is in stone-solid love these days. But for all of you who might immediately think the queen of raunchy twang’s edges have been rounded off by the experience, stop right there. There’s no happy, smiley remake of Ricki Lee Jones’ “Chuck E.’s In Love” to be found on Lucinda’s latest album, Little Honey.

Oh, no.

Instead, Lucinda not only still wears her heart on her sleeve, but her “Honey Bee”’s sweetness “all up in my hair” and “all over my tummy” as well. That’s right. She’s just as loud about the good stuff as she was about all the heartache. And it makes for a wicked album. If comparisons to the Stones’ Exile On Main Street weren’t such a clichranking right up there with someone being “the next Dylan” or, for that matter, “the next Lucinda Williams”), Little Honey, with its mix of crunch, twang and almost-gospel moments would be a candidate for “Best Exile album of ’08.” (And let’s face it: Lucinda is one of the few on the planet that can out-drawl Jagger at his campiest and not sound silly.)

One of the reasons Little Honey works so well is summed up in its first five seconds: the false-stumbling-start-what-the-hell-let-the-tape-roll of “Real Love.” This is Lucinda and the band Buick 6 and the match feels as comfy as a perfectly beat-up leather jacket. Even though some other friends stop by (including Elvis Costello, Matthew Sweet, and Jim Lauderdale), this is as much Buick 6’s album as anybody’s and they pull it off all the way from gentle ballads to the rough stuff. (Think Crazy Horse with a broader palette of sound.)

In between are the half-drunk-at-the-Legion-Hall-sounding bluesy sqwonks of numbers like “Well Well Well,” “Heaven Blues,” and “Jailhouse Tears.” In the latter, Elvis Costello joins in to give us a peek at what some of those old George Jones/Tammy Wynette duets would’ve been like if they’d let it all hang out. E: “I’ll prove it to you somehow/I’m done with every bit/Look at me, I’m clean now.” L: “You’re so full of shit.”

Lucinda can still lay you low with the heartbreakers: witness “Circles And X’s” (a chestnut Williams wrote in 1985) and “If Wishes Were Horses.” But the power of her emotions for husband Tom Overby hit just as hard as any of the troubled tales of the past. Along with the aforementioned crunch of “Real Love” and the well-slathered “Honey Bee” are the love-filled “Tears Of Joy” and “Knowing.”

She stands her ground when it comes to the music biz: the sweet horn-drenched “Rarity” calls it like she sees it (“While they suck the gristle/Off the bones of your art”); “Little Rock Star” is a warning to those who try to follow; and I’m betting that if you didn’t pick up on the writing credits for the album-closer “It’s A Long Way To The Top” (Angus Young, Malcolm Young, and Bon Scott) you’d never figure it for an AC/DC cover it’s Lucinda’s now.

And if you want just a gal and her guitar, there’s “Plan To Marry” in all its stark beauty.

So how do you like that: a happy, well-loved Lucinda who can still make you laugh, make you cry, love you all up, and kick you in the arse.

Lucky her.

Lucky us.

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