The last time Lucinda Williams released an album, it was a waste of time for everyone. West was slow, drab, and devoid of any catchy melodies, and it gave me serious doubt as to whether she should continue making music or not. But Lucinda has pulled a total about-face, and stepped up her game. Ignoring LL Cool J's advice, I am officially calling Little Honey a comeback.
When I was lucky enough to see Lucinda live a couple months back, she said that most of the songs on Little Honey were b-sides and others that were written during the West sessions. That is mind-blowing when you consider how much better these tunes are than anything found on West. She gets things going right away with "Real Love," the album's first single and a killer rock song with no country swing whatsoever. That swing comes in on the second track, "Circles and X's," a lovely exercise in three-chord simplicity. The big centerpiece of Little Honey is "Little Rock Star," quite possibly the most powerful song Lucinda has ever written. With lyrics clearly directed at artists like Ryan Adams who enjoy self-destruction, she comes off less preachy and more motherly, like she knows the appeal of that lifestyle but would never ask anyone younger to imitate it. It's backed up by fabulously epic production, and heavy guitars and bass. Everything in "Little Rock Star" is turned up to 11, including the guts and emotion, and it just shines.
Lucinda really offers much more to grab onto on this album. But while the songs are more memorable, she still has the problem of not being able to edit her ideas efficiently enough, so we end up with six songs that go over five minutes in length. As pretty a song like "If Wishes Were Horses" may be, it just doesn't need to last that long. "Rarity" is over eight minutes, and though it does have a wonderfully plaintive French horn filling in the gaps, you'll be tapping your watch, waiting for her to move on to the next track. Again, it's not interminable like West, but still could use some fat trimming.
I almost feel bad criticizing any aspect of Little Honey because the whole album is such a relief, knowing that the queen of alt-country is not ready to give up her crown yet. West was nearly universally praised, for reasons unknown to me, and Lucinda could have just laid back and put out another disappointment. But she brought back some magic, tried a lot harder, and has redeemed herself. At 55, she's still red hot.
7.7 / 10
Over twenty-two years and ten studio albums Lucinda Williams has made a name for herself. She has a number of career achievements, but this isn’t Wikipedia, it’s the review section. ...
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