Six years in the making, Car Wheels somehow lives up to its lofty expectations because of Williams's direct songwriting and her wonderfully unaffected vocals. With assistance from cohorts such as Steve Earle, Williams uses... more » the acoustic accents of Dobros, mandolins, slide guitars, and accordions to add color to her grooves, whispers, and rumbles. Her lyrics are undisguised as she presents to us the travelogue of her memory. We can't wait for 2004! --Marc Greilsamer« less
Six years in the making, Car Wheels somehow lives up to its lofty expectations because of Williams's direct songwriting and her wonderfully unaffected vocals. With assistance from cohorts such as Steve Earle, Williams uses the acoustic accents of Dobros, mandolins, slide guitars, and accordions to add color to her grooves, whispers, and rumbles. Her lyrics are undisguised as she presents to us the travelogue of her memory. We can't wait for 2004! --Marc Greilsamer
Ken G. from BIRMINGHAM, AL Reviewed on 12/14/2009...
I enjoyed the cd. It is typical Lucinda Williams.
0 of 2 member(s) found this review helpful.
Terrific, Evocative Music
Westley | Stuck in my head | 10/26/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Lucinda William's "Car Wheels on a Gravel Road" was released in 1998, her first record in six years. Her music is somewhat difficult to classify - part rock, part country, part Bonnie Raitt, with a dash of Louisiana. Many people identify Lucinda with the alt-country or "No Depression" group, which seems to fit as well as any label. I think she sounds like a more rock version of Mary-Chapin Carpenter.
Regardless of the label, her music is very good, and she wrote or co-wrote all but one of these songs (Randy Week's "Can't Let Go"). The music is obviously finely-tuned and done with care, with a nice mixture of easy-paced rockers and ballads. Perhaps the best selection is "Jackson" - an extraordinarily beautiful song about driving through the South and missing (or not missing?) a lover. "Lake Charles" is another interesting song, with a nice, under-stated zydeco feel and dobro guitar. Anyone who has lived in the deep south will be particularly likely to appreciate this CD, if not only for the frequent mentions of Southern towns, including Jackson, Macon, Lafayette, Rosedale, Greenville, Nacodoches, Baton Rouge, and Vicksburg. The CD is like a musical travelogue, with each song an evocative post card sent from Lucinda's soul.
When it was released, "Car Wheels on a Gravel Road" was heralded with some of the best reviews of the year. Indeed, Lucinda even received a Grammy nomination for the CD - Rock Female Vocalist for "Can't Let Go;" sadly, she lost to Alanis Morissette's wailing "Uninvited." However, all of the acclaim perhaps set expectations too high for some listeners, as witnessed by some reviews here. I don't have any other Lucinda CDs, so I can't assert whether this CD is her best. Either way, however, you can't miss with this CD: filled with excellent music. And the cover photo is one of my all-time favorites! Most highly recommended. "
Bayou Blues-Rock and Images of Lost Love
Eric Aronson | Boston, MA, USA | 02/07/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"On this CD, Lucinda Williams continues the pattern of superb songwriting and fine arrangements she established with her 1992 masterpiece, SWEET OLD WORLD. That the follow-up CD took so long to complete bespeaks both the emotional struggles Williams draws from in her material and the sense of perfectionism she brings to her work. CAR WHEELS ON A GRAVEL ROAD is a steamy portrait of Williams' native Louisiana. It is lush with swampy images of small towns, which wind their way through moving songs of lost love, whether the mood is sad ("Jackson") or just plain disgusted ("Greenville"). Williams offers a travel guide to bayou country in "Lake Charles": an epitaph to a man who finally returns home in the freedom that death brings. She reveals her gutsy, bluesy side in "Can't Let Go" and the raw, angry swamp rock of "Joy". Some of her finest images of Southern squalor can be found in songs like the title track, "Car Wheels," "Metal Firecracker" and her tribute to blues legend Robert Johnson, "2 Kool 2 Be 4-Gotten". Perhaps the strongest songs musically are the hit-bound rocker "I Lost It" and the opening track, "Right In Time": a deep, erotic moan with a catchy, rocking chorus. The CD is propelled by the crisp rhythm section of drummer Donald Lindley and bassist John Ciambotti, with help from Williams' steadfast multi-instrumentalist, Gurf Morlix. The tight production is a collaboration between Williams and her band. Although Lucinda Williams' vocals may not be as well-developed as those of some of her contemporaries, her honest, poetic lyrics and authentic blues stylings make her one of today's most noteworthy singer-songwriters."
Tyler Smith | Denver, CO United States | 12/29/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
""Poetry" is a word much too often used when it comes to describing the lyrics for popular tunes. Frequently, words set to music suffer badly when they are taken away from the musical setting. The lyrics of Lucinda Williams, however, deserve the description. "Car Wheels on a Gravel Road" offers streams of inspired imagery from one of the best popular songwriters of our time.The landscape for much of Williams's poetry is, of course, the Deep South. The album is filled with observations of rural and small-town life: bars, fields, bridges, rivers, kitchens, small children, old men and women. The title cut shows what a writer can do when she turns a keen eye on the life around her. In the space of a few minutes, we get vivid images of bacon cooking in a kitchen, screen doors slamming, mothers chiding their children to pick up their toys, vistas of cottonfields and yards with old wrecks. If one of the goals of poetry is to hold a mirror up to life, the song succeeds brilliantly.Lest someone new to the album (I'm not sure how many could be, with 211 reviews!) think that it's just a collection of pretty words, let it be said that the music in "Car Wheels" is absolutely essential to the life of the language. Another great song, "2 Kool To Be 4-Gotten," has a haunting guitar behind it that provides just the right amount of illumination for the dark lyrics. "Can't Let Go" and "Joy" are stompers that give Lucinda a chance to show off her great voice.And what a voice it is. I think "intoxicating" might be the right word, but it probably doesn't do justice to it. She can growl (as on the last two songs mentioned), but she can purr as well, as on "Right in Time." She even gives a hint of a yodel on "Concrete and Barbed Wire."If you think you're afraid of country music, don't use that as an excuse to avoid this record. It would be quite an injustice to label Lucinda Williams as a country singer, not because there's anything wrong with country singers, but because she could never be limited to one sound or style. Like all great singer/songwriters, she's a synthesizer. She uses styles to fit the needs of each song.My voice may be lost among the many others singing the praises of this album, but don't let Lucinda's voice remain silent to you. If you are a music lover of any stripe, do yourself a favor and add "Car Wheels" to your collection."
Superb--soulful with an understanding of human frailities.
Tyler Smith | 12/06/1998
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This is truly a very good CD by a great artist. Her voice and her music are both unique, but with roots in well recognized folk, rock and blues genres. She sings a Louiana version of folk and blues with a voice that sometimes has to stretch and strain. Her music doesn't fit easliy into predescribed categories. Sometimes it's quiet, sometimes its loud. Sometimes its blusy and sometimes it's just plain "folk". Usually its a blend. If you want sharp crisp Madison Avenue packaged lyrics that fit perfectly into tight little melodies, this is NOT your CD. Her music and lyrics are often rough around the edges. But if you've ever left or lost a lover, ever felt "lost" or even "found", and like --or hate-- the emotions those memories recall, or if you have a soul that understands the human journey through life, you'll like this CD. For example, the lyrics in "Lake Charles" don't rhyme, don't alwys fit exacly into the music, and are sung by Lucinda in a voice that sounds like Janis Joplin in a quiet mood. But this haunting and tender song about a dead lover/friend also invokes the feeling that the singer has come to grips with the loss as well, and teaches more about remembering your loss and letting it go than any other song I've ever heard. The chorus of "Did an angel whisper in your ear? Hold you close, and take away your fear, in that long last moment?"still affects me, in a way I don't understand, whenever I hear it. Maybe it reminds me that someday I'll face a "long, last moment", too. This is the first Lucinda Williams CD I've listened to. I gave the CD 4 stars simply because the CD tells me that this is an artist capable of even greater heights. If you want to know my tastes in music, they're probably not much help. I was raised on rock n' roll with an emphasis on the Grateful Dead and Bruce Springsteen--but I always had a collection of quieter folk music lying around, too --Joni Mitchell, James Taylor, Bob Dylan. Springsteen's quieter releases--"The Ballad of Tom Joad" and "Nebraska" remain my 2 favorites of his CD's. Today I listen to just about anything--Frank Sinatra, Garth Brooks, Patsy Cline, Tom Waits and Bruce Springsteen being my mainstays. These singers and their music have very little in common--except that each can evoke some facet of the human condition and put it into words and music. Lucina Williams is the same."
Traveling life's gravel roads with Lucinda.
G. Merritt | Boulder, CO | 08/30/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Singer-songwriter, Lucinda Williams, played the final show of her tour at the Boulder Theater here last week, and performed most of the tracks from this incredible, 1998 classic: "2 Kool 2 Be 4-Gotten," "Drunken Angel," "Concrete and Barbed Wire," "Can't Let Go," "I Lost It," and "Metal Firecracker." (Missing from her set list were "Right in Time," "Car Wheels on a Gravel Road," and "Lake Charles.") Life isn't always happy and upbeat; it has its gravel roads. And relationships rarely end in happily ever after. Lucinda Williams knows the sadness in the world, and she has traveled those gravel roads. On this cd, she shows that she isn't reluctant to confront life's sadness, love, and remorse again in her music. Her vocals here are exquisitely honest, and her music is flavored with mandolins, dobros, accordions, and smoky slide guitars. The grooves are bluesy, raunchy, and sensual. (It's no surprise this cd is so popular in Boulder.) The cd has the feel of sitting in a juke joint somewhere in the South, drinking beer and smoking cigarettes, and thinking about that ex-lover or two. While Williams has her "Sweet Side," it isn't as obvious here as on her more recent cd, WORLD WITHOUT TEARS.