Because this 1988 album produced hits for others ("Passionate Kisses" for Mary Chapin Carpenter, "The Night's Too Long" for Patty Loveless), Williams is best known as a songwriter. She certainly deserves the rep: her "Side... more » of the Road," for example, expresses the tension between loving another and remaining yourself better than any song ever written. But what makes this album so special is her voice. When she sings about wanting to visit "Crescent City," she packs more sheer longing into her delivery than even the greatest of songs could express. And, bonus, Lucinda Williams is chock full of great songs. --David Cantwell« less
Because this 1988 album produced hits for others ("Passionate Kisses" for Mary Chapin Carpenter, "The Night's Too Long" for Patty Loveless), Williams is best known as a songwriter. She certainly deserves the rep: her "Side of the Road," for example, expresses the tension between loving another and remaining yourself better than any song ever written. But what makes this album so special is her voice. When she sings about wanting to visit "Crescent City," she packs more sheer longing into her delivery than even the greatest of songs could express. And, bonus, Lucinda Williams is chock full of great songs. --David Cantwell
Lisa McKinley | Citrus Capital of the World, CA USA | 01/24/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Where have they been hiding Lucinda Williams all these years? Why aren't these songs - - her songs as sung by her - - standard hits?!? I am so grateful that I stumbled across VH1's Top 100 Women of Rock-n-Roll show last year, and as a lark, decided to watch it. My first thought was "how did they actually come up with 100 women in rock-n-roll?"...that half-hour episode happened to be the one that included Lucinda Williams. From what I heard, she sounded like something I'd like, so I made a mental note to check her out. I am kicking myself for waiting so long! You know how it is when you go cd shopping...you fill up your basket, and then you realize you're spending way too much so you put things back for another time. Well, I kept putting Lucinda back! I finally purchased this cd (with Xmas gift money, so I splurged, guilt-free!) and it has not left my cd player since! I would describe these songs as heartfelt, edgy, and very real, with stories we can all relate to. 'Side of the Road' has got to be one of the greatest songs I've ever heard...it really touched me by effectively articulating that need to occasionally identify myself separately, not only from my husband, but even from my children. This re-release also has a bonus track of a live version, and it is so beautiful! 'I Just Wanted to See You So Bad' is one of those songs that oozes that intensely wonderful, all consuming, sense of urgency, when a relationship is new; 'Like a Rose' is just heavenly; very Velvet Underground/Sunday Morning-ish; and, of course, the well-known 'Passionate Kisses', I think Lucinda's version is much more effective and exudes a deeper message than Mary Chapin Carpenter's, which I always found to be kind of grating and pop-ish. I find the cd as a whole to be delightfully under-produced, which gives it a very personal atmosphere, and the musicians in the band are obviously top-notch and "tight"! I don't know how you would categorize this music; folk/country/bluesy with a rockin' edge? This must be why we don't hear these songs on the usual radio stations, and it is a shame that a huge percentage of the general population will never be exposed to their magnificence. I am completely sold and am going to be scooping up all of Lucinda William's other recordings asap!"
Essential - but only if you like Lucinda!
Claudia Adams | 11/20/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Unlike most of the gushing reviewers, although I've been a fan of Lucinda's for a decade or so, I feel ambivalent about a lot of her music. I discovered her on an Austin City Limits episode about the time "Sweet Old World" came out, and my first reaction was to laugh out loud. I don't care how many "not helpfuls" you give the reviews that say she can't sing, or how many reviews say she has an amazing voice: I honestly thought I'd tuned into a Saturday Night Live sketch and that her performance was a joke. That voice seemed so awful to me at first. Same for lyrics that seemed repetitive and without substance. The utter lack of charisma may have been what sent me over the edge - she may have more stage presence these days, but on television back then she put the "dead" in deadpan. When I saw her perform live in the mid-90's (I really do love her, honest!), she was still underwhelming in terms of stage presence except when she got into old blues songs or a long version of "Hot Blood".So I think it's only fair to warn a newcomer that this may be a voice they love to hate. I love Patti Smith and Bob Dylan and Neil Young and PJ Harvey, but let's face it - they grate on a lot of people's nerves, and Lucinda's voice does the same. Heck, I'm a fan, and I own all her CD's, but if I'm not in just the right mood she grates on mine. Thus, I disagree with those who think the cover versions are inferior - I'd often prefer Mary Chapin Carpenter doing "Passionate Kisses". For all I know Lucinda might too. In my youth, I once told Don Schlitz it was too bad some country artist had ruined one of the songs I loved hearing him perform. He looked at me like I was crazy and told me he loved the record. Maybe I didn't like commercial country music, but just because we sometimes think it's best hearing the songwriter's own interpretation doesn't make it true. Often another person interprets a song better and makes it their own. Or at least, in the case of Lucinda covers, sings in what would conventionally be considered a much better voice.Later I saw her on TV again, and she began to grow on me until eventually I came to enjoy a quirky voice and lyrics that are poetic. I wouldn't be here writing about her if I hadn't come around, I'm just saying it's good to have some reviews here that are helpful to non-fans, and to acknowledge her weaknesses as well as her strenghts. The woman can use words; it just took me a while to get used to someone saying so much with so few of them. And when I'm in the mood to enjoy her voice, it's a joy to just sink into such luxurious lyrics. So - that's the stuff for people who don't know Lucinda at all. On to the comparisons.Like others below, I only have the original CD and can't comment on the bonus tracks except to say that "Sweet Old World" truly is a great song and that I wouldn't mind having an extra version. "Sweet Old World" was the first Lucinda CD I ever bought, and my favorite until "Car Wheels". This one was always last on my list, though "Essence" made me think twice. Going back today and listening after spending a good deal of time with "World Without Tears", I realize how great the original "Lucinda Williams" was, though, and how much it foreshadowed her future music. The production isn't as sophisticated as on "Car Wheels" (probably still the best entry point for someone new to her music, as well as the most likely one) or the recordings following it, but the songwriting is so remarkably consistently good.It's funny how things change with time, too. Most of the songs I considered amazing classics seemed less so today, while others I'd glossed over in the past, like the sublime "Side of the Road", stood out. There just isn't a bad song here. What struck me most was how much this recording foreshadowed her future songwriting. The way "I Just Wanted to See You So Bad" expresses so much passion with so few words, no matter how repetitive or how unusual a voice. And the sheer poetry here - if "Side of the Road" stands out in terms of its imagery, it isn't alone in using words better than most songwriters can dream of. I also just noticed the gritty sensuality in "The Night's Too Long" that came back back later on "Car Wheels" with "Right in Time", or "Essence", or "Righteously" on "World Without Tears".This is my longwinded way of being the 58th person to say this is essential classic wonderful Lucinda, but with a grain of salt for those who might not find her voice palatable. This is a shopping site after all, and I'd never tell a friend to buy a Lucinda CD without first making sure her voice didn't drive them up the wall, or that she wasn't too country for them, or that the lyrics seemed as brilliant to them as to me - she really isn't for everyone."
Another gem from a brilliant songwriter
Johnny Roulette | 12/11/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I bought Lucinda's Car Wheels On A Gravel Road CD because of the Steve Earle connection. I quickly realized she didn't need anyone's name to stand strong. I immediately went out and bought this self-titled release. She's a genius storyteller. She might even eclipse the mighty Dave Alvin when it comes to sincerity. It is impossible to hear any of her songs without being transported to the places that Lucinda is singing of. She'd be a... good writer even without the music. This CD isn't quite so polished as Car Wheels. It's properly stripped down. Jim Lauderdale, Pat Quinn & Gurf Morlix supply the perfect complimentary backup vocals. Morlix also supplies his usual master guitar work. These songs are so simple in theory that it amazes me still that so few can do it well. The Williams brand of love and pain and closure is refreshingly pure. There's nothing contrived about it. I seriously doubt that Lucinda Williams has it in her to produce a less than stunning record. Whatever you want to call it these days, folk/country/Americana, it's top of the line music by any standards. My CD only has the original 12 tracks, so I can't really comment on the live stuff. Still, I haven't heard enough bad songs from Lucinda to comprise an EP. Give her a try...you'll want more."
Raw...and still the best
Claudia Adams | 09/06/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I just plucked this CD out of my "all time favorites" collection to hear "Crescent City" - the one song that floated in my head for days since hurricane Katrina tore the heart out of New Orleans. The longing to go there, missing the old days when "we used to..." are EXACTLY how I felt when this tragedy occurred. I always knew Lucinda had an incredible talent for writing - from the time I first saw her performing on Austin City Limits in the early 90s. To me, this CD is the epitome of good music because it is just enough to connect for most people - not over the top in poetry, but with far more depth than most country music, and no synthetic sound. I think of this CD as "raw' because there is nothing flashy about it. Lyrics are clearly from the heart, and instruments are played in a traditional and purely unadulterated form. You hear the fiddle, the drums, the bass, guitars, all orchestrated in a way that only the fiercly independent Lucinda could have done. It is perfect. This is what I'd like to see performed live again in an intimate venue. It is what I play on the porch on a hot summer afternoon. It will forever remain an "all time favorite" for me."
Jeremy Heilman | Brooklyn, NY USA | 09/08/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The world finally seems to have noticed Lucinda's greatness, and she's become a mild commercial success in addition to retaining her critical cachet. If you've not heard this album, seek it out. It's Lucinda's best, yet her most accessible.I'm not a huge country music fan, but I realize these songs were considered too rock for country radio & vice versa when they came out, but now that popular country music seems to have shifted the emphasis to "popular" I think there's a huge audience out there that hasn't discovered this great album (especially since it hasn't aged a bit).Lucinda never seems to work when she's writing her lyrics. On the first listen, they seem like they came off the top of her head. Once you've absorbed them, they start to exhibit a wonderful poetry. They evoke the subject matter (usually relationships in a state of shambles or ecstacy) amazingly well. She's one of our best lyricsts, and is obsessed with production, so the album glimmers with quality. The resigned ballad "Side Of The Road" is the album's most obvious masterpiece, since it manages to spin a complex emotional tale of wanderlust while never losing its verse/chorus catchiness. Still, this is an album loaded with gems. "I Just Wanted To See You So Bad" is the rollicking country precursor to Cyndi Lauper's "I Drove All Night". "The Night's Too Long" precedes the Dixie Chicks' country tune as female empowerment anthem style by a decade, but is smart enough not to suggest that an empowered woman is above a night of fun with the right man. "Crescent City" is the most fun track on the album; a slice of down home nostalgia that doesn't make you feel guilty for loving its simplicity. "Big Red Sun Blues" contains one my favorite of all Lucinda lyrics: ("Sun in hanging in the sky / Sinking low, and so am I.") it's simple, metaphysical, beautiful, and packed with feeling. But that's what I love most about Lucinda's lyrical style... as she narrates, we see her as a constant observer. The world she examines melds itself to her state of mind. Lucinda, even when at her most depressed, tells us of the beauty she sees. There's nothing that can be ignored in her music. This is an album, not just a collection of singles... and its the best in a career filled with best albums."