sun 19/05/2019

CD: Lucinda Williams - The Ghosts of Highway 20 | reviews, news & interviews

CD: Lucinda Williams - The Ghosts of Highway 20

CD: Lucinda Williams - The Ghosts of Highway 20

Songs of love, hurt and death

Lucinda Williams, haunted by memories

Lucinda Williams steers just the right side of mannered, with a voice that’s raw and bruised, and a slurring delivery that would do a barstool drunk proud. She is the deep South incarnate, evoking with resigned melancholia the mood of the swamps from her native Louisiana.

Once again, in the latest of her very regular albums, she visits hurt, loss, love and death.  She moves with great ease from the almost romantic feel of “Place in Your Heart” to the bitterness of “If Love Could Kill”. This is a mostly quiet album, less raucous than some of her early work – though she’s been getting progressively softer since the magnificent and very sexy Essence.

The album is named after Interstate 20 which runs from Texas to the Carolinas. Williams has written a cycle of songs inspired by events and memories associated with a road she has travelled throughout her life. Her dark-hued muses are the “ghosts” she evokes in the title song, a stirring reflection on her age and the aching and regret-laden awareness of mortality. Solace is to be found in the promise of a life beyond the pain suffered in the here and now, as she suggests with the slightly uncertain hope of “If There’s a Heaven”. There is a sweetly tortured rendition of Bruce Springsteen's "Factory", but most of the material is her own.

The songs are rooted in gospel, country and blues, those deeply interrelated genres that endlessly and creatively blur the lines between the races. This is Lucinda Williams’s territory, and she is magnificently served by her regular band and the constantly intertwined and soulfully picked guitars of Bill Frisell and Greg Leisz, the album’s producer: plenty  of heart-stirring tremolo, eloquent but concise solos. Many of these songs are little gems, and the album a delight for those who like to mix pleasure with pain.

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