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Lucinda Williams
label: epic
released: 06.05.01
our score: 4.5 out of 5.0

Americana Queen
by: bill aicher

After her glorious return with the Grammy-Award-Winning Car Wheels on a Gravel Road, little doubt remained in peoples' minds that Lucinda Williams's next album would impress. What was unexpected, however, was that the new album would ultimately surpass the last.

Stripping the music down even more so than that found on Car Wheels (and embracing the production finesse of Charlie Sexton), Williams opted for an album of introspection rather than proclamation. Throughout Essence's 11 bare-boned tracks, honesty and sorrow radiate from Williams, her mouth providing the doorway down her throat directly to her soul.

From the album opener "Lonely Girls" through the final flutter of "Broken Butterflies," Williams's simplisticly sparse lyrics are proof that feeling your words can do much more than struggling with complex poetics. Rarely can one say so much by saying so little.

Soothing vocals over airy guitars and the melancholic shuffle of lightly brushed percussion adorn the album and shine their brightest in "Reason to Cry" and 'Bus to Baton Rouge," while the words drip from her tongue on the sexual purr of "Essence."

In only once instance does Williams let loose from the weights that bind her down. "Get Right With God" finds Williams professing a love for The Almighty in a folk-gospel ruckus that's almost enough to make an unbeliever stand up in praise.

Essence does nothing but delight, a succulent morsel of satisfaction for the soul - if only to join in Williams's proclamation that life is feeling.

Rarely does one find such a flawless exploration in honesty..
18-Dec-2001 7:04 PM

If you liked Essence...

1. Lonely Girls
2. Steal Your Love
3. I Envy the Wind
4. Blue
5. Out of Touch
6. Are You Down
7. Essence
8. Reason to Cry
9. Get Right With God
10. Bus to Baton Rouge
11. Broken Butterflies