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Inevitable baggage accompanies an album whose sessions splintered a great band, ousted three producers, and outlasted a record company. But if ex-Austinite Lucinda Williams is a paragon of self-doubt, she’s also a gifted writer who gets to the core of a character in the course of a three-minute tune. On Car Wheels on a Gravel Road (Mercury), Williams’ sensuous drawl pours out remarkable yarns of longing and wanderlust. Road’s every syllable might have been hard wrought, but to everyone’s credit, it retains a refreshingly natural appeal. Was it worth the five-year wait and the psychic toll inflicted? Once you hear it, that’s not a question you’re going to ask. jeff mccord With their slavish interpretations of how the legends once did it, blues purists like John Hammond and Jonny Lang have done more damage to the once-noble genre than attrition ever could have. Give me Big Foot Chester any day. More than a

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