Lucinda Williams This Sweet Old World

October 22, 2017 01:40 PM
  • Average – 96
  • Standard Deviation – 3.2
  • Albums are scored 1-100 and standard deviation measures the album’s breadth of track appeal

In 1992, Lucinda Williams transformed herself from primarily a songwriter to a bona fide force in the singer/songwriter country, Americana world with Sweet Old World. On This Sweet Old World her songs share traits with Tennessee Williams’ plays in that they oozed sexuality, recalled a recent past, and seemed as if the world could not quite have gotten by without their words and insights as part of it.

Twenty-five years later, Williams has reimagined and rerecorded this album, updating the sound, production, track list, and even some song titles and lyrics. In the original recording, album opener, Six Blocks Away, which like much of the album, sounded like it was recorded in 1992 with bright and crisp production, gets a makeover as the guitars and drums now match the gravel and grit in Williams’ emotive phrasings.

Her voice now more accurately captures the angst and anguish over a man’s unrequited love who lives only six blocks away, though he might as well be miles from her. Songs here demonstrate why Williams’ song writing is elevated from other radio-friendly country songs. Much of what you hear on country radio depends on a witty phrase, pun, or clever double entendre, and describes first-level emotion: Love, heartbreak or sadness.

Williams pens songs that go deeper; they explore the emotional underpinnings and rationale for these emotions. Her characters aren’t defined by the clothes they wear or trucks they drive, but rather they suffer from attachment issues and get thrown in jail largely because they were playing out the roles expected of them by absent mothers and abusive fathers, a far stretch from a Body Like a Dirt Road. They are literature rather than comic books. This recording now brings these characters a deserving, timeless sonic palette that befit their depths.

About the Author

J Burr Vannatta is a lifelong music critic with prior stints at Southern and Sugar Free Records. His new release list has been highly-regarded for more than 25 years. He is the guy on top of the newest bands when your friends are still listening to Mellencamp (not that there’s anything wrong with that), and might have even made a mix tape for your girlfriend in the ‘90’s.  Spotify at jbvannatta. @jbvannatta