Album review: Lucinda Williams' 'Blessed'
It’s been rough being a Lucinda Williams fan for the past decade; we’ve listened as the singer, one of the great songwriters of the 1990s, floundered with albums that failed to measure up to the stuff of her legend. The classic 1988-98 triumvirate of “Lucinda Williams,” “Sweet Old World” and “Car Wheels on a Gravel Road” presented an artist whose best songs rivaled the great American songwriters who have drawn from the wellspring of blues, country, folk and rock to create perfection: Bob Dylan, Townes Van Zandt, Gram Parsons and Bonnie Raitt. Certainly some of Williams’ ‘00s output contained good songs, but after such strong work early in her career, a combination of lazy songwriting and lethargic energy suggested something was amiss. Whether it was bad relationships, bad liquor or just overall bad vibes, it seemed that her muse had somehow become debilitated.
So “Blessed,” one of the best albums she’s ever released, comes as a relief. Produced by Don Was (who produced Raitt’s “Nick of Time”), the dozen songs on the album tackle complicated emotions with a deft touch to create profoundly moving moments. Whether it’s the sense of loss in “Copenhagen,’ about the instance in which she learns about the death of a friend, or “To Be Loved,” a tender ballad that every mother should sing to her children before bedtime (“You weren’t born to be mistreated/You weren’t born to be misguided/You were born to be loved”), Williams’ writing on “Blessed” is seamless. As on her classic albums, the songwriter mixes it up with electric guitar songs (“Buttercup,” “Seeing Black”), personalized protest songs (“Soldier’s Song”), and touching, gorgeous ballads (“Don’t Know How You’re Living,” “Sweet Love”). Combined, the result is a dynamic, human album, one that’s easy to fall in love with. Highly recommended.