Lucinda Williams’s West, in 2007, was a stunning effort, her strongest in nearly a decade. Yet it was an emotional downslide, and its cathartic declarations of unrequited love no doubt took their toll in the ensuing months onstage. At some point, she must have longed for a way to kick things into high gear. Little Honey (Lost Highway) fills just that void and, happily, finds Williams in a better place; she hasn’t sounded this content—or ebullient, even—since 1988’s “Passionate Kisses.” If the upbeat nature of the album’s single, “Real Love,” comes as a surprise, wait until you hear the ferocious “Honey Bee,” her hardest-rocking love song ever. There’s much to like here: the down-home “Heaven Blues,” a paean to self-destructive types in “Little Rock Star,” a fun country duet with Elvis Costello, and yes, a few melancholic gems (“If Wishes Were Horses,” “Plan to Marry”). Williams’s newfound optimism does take some getting used to, however; where this solid release leaves the “pain equals art” argument depends on whether or not you think an album of hers should include an AC/DC cover.