Lucinda Williams: Down Where The Spirit Meets The Bone

Double album from Americana queen.

You can trust Louder Our experienced team has worked for some of the biggest brands in music. From testing headphones to reviewing albums, our experts aim to create reviews you can trust. Find out more about how we review.

Featuring 20 tracks, evenly split over two CDs, Down Where The Spirit Meets The Bone has the weight and breadth of a grand statement. It is certainly every bit the equal of Car Wheels On A Gravel Road (1998) and World Without Tears (2003).

More even than those previous triumphs, Down… feels like a career-defining work from a 61-year-old, casting back over a life lived hard, all careworn wisdom and weathered ennui, full of croakily delivered home truths, all set to a feast of folk and country, rock and blues. Throughout, Williams walks the line between tough and tender, just as she cleverly negotiates the path dividing heartland American music and the alternative, countercultural variety.

Aided by guitarists Bill Frisell and Tony Joe White, along with members of The Wallflowers and The Attractions, songs pour out of Williams, from the raw to the radio-friendly (Burning Bridges is an almost Stevie Nicks-ish potential hit). She seems aware that time is tight, although her voice exudes more resignation than rage, as well as, according to the opening track title, Compassion. But she can do cutting (see Cold Day In Hell), and as for husky obduracy, try Big Mess, where she makes Marianne Faithfull sound like Marilyn Monroe./o:p

Paul Lester

Paul Lester is the editor of Record Collector. He began freelancing for Melody Maker in the late 80s, and was later made Features Editor. He was a member of the team that launched Uncut Magazine, where he became Deputy Editor. In 2006 he went freelance again and has written for The Guardian, The Times, the Sunday Times, the Telegraph, Classic Rock, Q and the Jewish Chronicle. He has also written books on Oasis, Blur, Pulp, Bjork, The Verve, Gang Of Four, Wire, Lady Gaga, Robbie Williams, the Spice Girls, and Pink.