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Lucinda Williams 

West


Lucinda Williams
West
(Lost Highway)
West is unlike any record that Lucinda Williams has ever released. It has a jazzy vibe with a touch of Memphis soul. Taking four years between studio albums, West is all the better for it. Although it's dark, primarily dealing with the desolation of lost love and heartbreak, it is an inviting record that features some of Williams' best songs. Producer Hal Willner, better known for his jazz and pop production, uses his studio crew over Williams' demos and gives her sound a fresh perspective that works. It is a risky experiment but Willner allows Williams to absolve her demons without making the record too bleak. Using the genius country/jazz axe of Bill Frisell, ex-Tin Hat Trio keyboardist Bob Burger and violinist Jenny Scheinman, a new soundscape for Williams to step into is created. West is all about atmosphere, unlike her other records, sounding least like a country album in any way. The opening "Are You Alright?" could have been on Car Wheels but tracks such as "Unsuffer Me," featuring Scheinman's string arrangements, have more in common with British folk. Even "Wrap My Head Around That" has some great avant-garde touches. Though Essence and World Without Tears had Williams testing new waters with great success, West is the kind of record that any songwriter would kill to have made. It's going to be the best disc of the year.
—Trevor MacLaren
categories: Coast pick

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