Blessed

Blessed

LUCINDA WILLIAMS has freely admitted that much of her work is starkly autobiographical. But her personal tumult has subsided since her engagement and recent marriage to music executive Tom Overby, and the raw intimacy that permeated albums such as Sweet Old World and West has given way to more-universal truths. Not everyone is happy about this, and Williams’s latest record will provide ammunition to loyalists and the disaffected alike. BLESSED (Lost Highway) is yet another superbly crafted set of songs, alternating between dead-slow ballads and fierce (if overlong) guitar rave-ups (Williams’s lyrical minimalism and the cracked vulnerability of her voice isn’t always a great fit with the latter). Among the highlights are a wistful olive branch to a former companion, “Don’t Know How You’re Living,” and its flip side, the angry kiss-off “Buttercup.” “Seeing Black” poses questions to her songwriter friend Vic Chesnutt, who died of a drug overdose in 2009, and the moving “Copenhagen” pays tribute to her deceased manager. It’s telling that this intensely personal fare is front-loaded on the album while the title track, “Ugly Truth,” and “Kiss Like Your Kiss”—excellent songs that nonetheless feel more like storytelling—are relegated to the back end. If Williams feels a bit unsure about these tracks, she shouldn’t. They’d no doubt be embraced by all of her fans if the other songs—the sort of heart-on-the-sleeve confessionals that made her famous—didn’t carry the electric jolt of a whispered secret.

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