West – Lucinda Williams | CD

(Universal) 5 stars

`West’ – Lucinda Williams’s most satisfying recording to date – exemplifies the singer/songwriter’s ability to transmute intimate experiences into ballads with a universal connection.

She accomplishes this through raw, confessional lyrics and a willingness, through that heartbreakingly honest vocal technique, to expose her emotional core.

For `West’, Williams delivered home-recorded demo tracks to the ubiquitous producer Hal Willner, whose subtle studio embellishments emphasise the music’s stark message.

The songs – as always – deal in part with the baggage of a broken relationship, while her mother’s death (on the aching ‘Mama You Sweet’ and conflicted `Fancy Funeral’) adds a poignant element to the emotive mix.

On the opening `Are You Alright’ Williams seems to be  worrying about a departed partner, but by the final title number (reflecting to her own move toCalifornia) she has worked through recriminations (the ball-breaking `Come On’ is a standout) to a gently, melodic resolution.

Like Edith Piaf, Williams invites us into the dark recesses of her soul … it’s an unforgettable experience.

- Mike Daly

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