(Scroll down for videos of "My Joy" and "Drunken Angel")
"Is your death wish stronger than you are?" Lucinda Williams asks in "Little Rock Star," a cautionary song swathed in guitar noise that someone should instant-message to Pete Doherty, Ryan Adams and Amy Winehouse. While it shows that the 55-year-old barbed-wire country singer is wary of rock's trappings, Little Honey proves she's still crushed out on the music. On "Real Love," amid boogie-rock riffing, she alternately pledges her heart to a guy, a girl and an electric guitar. And "Honey Bee" ranks with Joe Liggins' 1945 hit "The Honeydripper" as one of the nastiest apiological jams ever ("Now I got your honey," she hollers, "all over my tummy!"). There are some throwaways: "Jailhouse Tears," a honky-tonk trailer-trash bitchfest, is playacted too hard by Williams and guest Elvis Costello. But it's useful comic relief between the downtempo numbers that — for all the rock thrills here — remain Williams' most potent showcases. "If wishes were horses," she moans on the sublime song of the same name, "I'd have a ranch." Ride 'em, sister
(Posted: Oct 16, 2008)
Lucinda Williams finds a 'Little Honey'
Friday, October 3rd 2008, 4:00 AM
What's this? A happy Lucinda Williams album?
For her latest work, "Little Honey," the woman best known for her wrenching ruminations on unreturned phone calls, cheating lovers and screwed-up relationships sings about a love so good it makes her cry with joy, having great sex, and achieving a sense of peace and calm.
"This is the most positive place I've been in in my whole adult life," the 55-year-old singer says. "It just took me that long to find the right person. What can I say? I'm a late bloomer."
Actually, Williams met her lover and now co-producer Tom Overby back when she was toiling on her last CD, 2007's "West." But only on "Little Honey," out Oct. 14, does Williams capture the full change in her life. The joy shows not only in the lyrics but in the music. "Little Honey" roils with the hardest-rocking, fastest-paced music of Williams' long career. That augurs well for her show tonight at the WaMu Theater in the Garden, giving her more songs ripe for her ripping live band.
Williams credits Overby with encourging the alterna-country/blues/folk singer to tip toward her rock side. The switch comes as some relief. One drawback to Williams' otherwise riveting recent work was its slackening pace. "It's always been harder for me to write rock songs," Williams admits. "The slower ballads of pining are just easier to write for anyone who comes out of the singer-songwriter genre."
Williams first made tentative steps in that genre nearly 30 years ago with her 1979 album "Ramblin'." Her later CDs, for Rough Trade Records in 1988 and 1992, made her a critics' favorite, as well as a forerunner of the so-called alterna-country movement. But she didn't break through to larger recognition until 1998's "Car Wheels on a Gravel Road," a work that wound up intimidating her. "I didn't know what to do after that," she says. "I didn't know if I could write songs like those gems."
Williams reveals that uber-producer Rick Rubin approached her about working together at the time, but his suggestion that she work with musicians outside her band made her shy away. "I was so naive at the time," she says. "Maybe I could have been farther along in my career faster if I went with him."
It took Williams four years to fashion a followup to "Car Wheels," but in recent times she has become more prolific, batting out work nearly every year. "It's maturity and becoming a better songwriter," she says.
There's plenty of ace songwriting on "Little Honey," especially the rip-roaring "Honey Bee," the wise "Plan to Marry" and the country duet with Elvis Costello "Jailhouse Tears." There's even a hot cover song - AC/DC's "Long Way to the Top," though hers sounds more like it was done by Keith Richards' solo band.
Just one song mines the old pining, "If Wishes Were Horses." Tellingly, it was written in the '80s. But even the happiest songs gain depth through the sense of residual pain in Williams' voice. The nuanced result offers a swift rebuke to anyone who thinks you have to suffer to write well. "No matter what," she says, "there will always be plenty to write about."
And here are two of our faves from the past: