Thursday, February 5, 2009

Drunk on Honey (CD Review) by Alison Ross

Drunk on Honey
by Alison Ross

Lucinda Williams may have been around for a while, but it's taken me a while to come around to her. I have been a fan for only about four years now, and recently I have become inexplicably besotted with this brashly passionate alt-country queen. It must be the grit and grime in her voice, and her brazen delivery of lyrics that are by turns lusciously layered, astutely ironic, sassily straightforward, and even, at times, quaintly cliche. It must also be her proclivity for veering between abrasive blusey rockers and miserably melancholic ballads that has me so dizzily starry-eyed.

It could also be the 2007 scintillating sonic gem of hers, West, that drew me in so fiercely and intimately. I had previously only owned the early-in-her career masterpiece Car Wheels on a Gravel Road, which I adore. But then a few friends urged me to delve deeper into her catalogue, so I did. I have yet to purchase all of her albums, but I do own roughly half now. And while Car Wheels remains a favorite, I
must say that lately I swoon quite a bit over West. That album displays a pleasing mixture of styles - my two favorites are "Come On," with its mocking mimicry of arena rock, and the deleriously contemplative, "What If."

On her latest effort, Little Honey, Williams again proves she has the mettle to crank out hook-laden songs which exude a brassy rootsiness culling copiously from country, blues, and rock influences. The album, though, is more searingly aggressive in tone than West. Whereas West subtly blended moods, and gave off an overall feeling of mercurial introspection both sonically and lyrically, the cumulative effect of Little Honey is ferocious vigor, tempered only slightly by softer sounds.

The album's standout tracks are the scorching opener, "Real Love," the crunchy, boisterous "Honey Bee," the seductively slow-burning, "If Wishes Were Horses" and the earthy "Heaven Blues." Unfortunately for an album that otherwise coheres quite well, there are a couple of missteps - a duet with Elvis Costello which is pleasant enough but ultimately rather wayward, and a completely superfluous AC/DC cover. The tune ("It's a Long Way to the Top If You Want to Rock and Roll") fits thematically with some of the other slammin' songs, and there are definite kinships bewteen Williams' and AC/DC's styles, but her rendition of this anthemic track lacks luster.

In 2006, I saw Williams perform at the Tabernacle here in Atlanta - her sexily grainy voice filled up the room, and her stage presence was fiesty and cute.

Indeed, it was her performance that impelled me to take Williams more seriously as an artist, but it wasn't until recently that I actually made good on that by purchasing more of her albums.

Lucinda Williams is an intoxicating honey of a singer-songwriter whose influence on country and alternative music will likely reverberate through the decades.

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