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Car Wheels On A Gravel Road

364 customer reviews

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Audio CD, June 30, 1998
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Car Wheels On A Gravel Road + Down Where the Spirit Meets the Bone + Lucinda Williams
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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

Lucinda Williams makes this whole music thing seem so simple: Write in plain language about the people and places that crowd your memory; add subtle flavors of a mandolin here, a Dobro there, perhaps an accordion or slide guitar; above all, sing as honestly and naturally as you can. Of course, it took her six years to achieve this simplicity, an amazing achievement considering the number of knobs that were turned. Her exquisite voice moans and groans and slips and slides--she delivers a polished tone in a coarse manner. On the superb "Concrete and Barbed Wire," soft acoustic guitars are punctuated by electric slide, accordion, mandolin, and Steve Earle's harmony. Williams's deeply personal stories are matched with bluesy rumbles, raunchy grooves, and plaintive whispers. The entire Deep South is reduced to a sleepy small town filled with ex-lovers, dive bars, and endless gravel roads. --Marc Greilsamer

Product Details

  • Audio CD (June 30, 1998)
  • Original Release Date: June 30, 1998
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Mercury Records
  • ASIN: B000007Q8J
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (364 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,767 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

62 of 63 people found the following review helpful By Westley VINE VOICE on October 25, 2004
Format: Audio CD
Lucinda William's "Car Wheels on a Gravel Road" was released in 1998, her first record in six years. Her music is somewhat difficult to classify - part rock, part country, part Bonnie Raitt, with a dash of Louisiana. Many people identify Lucinda with the alt-country or "No Depression" group, which seems to fit as well as any label. I think she sounds like a more rock version of Mary-Chapin Carpenter.

Regardless of the label, her music is very good, and she wrote or co-wrote all but one of these songs (Randy Week's "Can't Let Go"). The music is obviously finely-tuned and done with care, with a nice mixture of easy-paced rockers and ballads. Perhaps the best selection is "Jackson" - an extraordinarily beautiful song about driving through the South and missing (or not missing?) a lover. "Lake Charles" is another interesting song, with a nice, under-stated zydeco feel and dobro guitar. Anyone who has lived in the deep south will be particularly likely to appreciate this CD, if not only for the frequent mentions of Southern towns, including Jackson, Macon, Lafayette, Rosedale, Greenville, Nacodoches, Baton Rouge, and Vicksburg. The CD is like a musical travelogue, with each song an evocative post card sent from Lucinda's soul.

When it was released, "Car Wheels on a Gravel Road" was heralded with some of the best reviews of the year. Indeed, Lucinda even received a Grammy nomination for the CD - Rock Female Vocalist for "Can't Let Go;" sadly, she lost to Alanis Morissette's wailing "Uninvited." However, all of the acclaim perhaps set expectations too high for some listeners, as witnessed by some reviews here. I don't have any other Lucinda CDs, so I can't assert whether this CD is her best. Either way, however, you can't miss with this CD: filled with excellent music. And the cover photo is one of my all-time favorites! Most highly recommended.
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30 of 30 people found the following review helpful By Tyler Smith on December 29, 2001
Format: Audio CD
"Poetry" is a word much too often used when it comes to describing the lyrics for popular tunes. Frequently, words set to music suffer badly when they are taken away from the musical setting. The lyrics of Lucinda Williams, however, deserve the description. "Car Wheels on a Gravel Road" offers streams of inspired imagery from one of the best popular songwriters of our time.
The landscape for much of Williams's poetry is, of course, the Deep South. The album is filled with observations of rural and small-town life: bars, fields, bridges, rivers, kitchens, small children, old men and women. The title cut shows what a writer can do when she turns a keen eye on the life around her. In the space of a few minutes, we get vivid images of bacon cooking in a kitchen, screen doors slamming, mothers chiding their children to pick up their toys, vistas of cottonfields and yards with old wrecks. If one of the goals of poetry is to hold a mirror up to life, the song succeeds brilliantly.
Lest someone new to the album (I'm not sure how many could be, with 211 reviews!) think that it's just a collection of pretty words, let it be said that the music in "Car Wheels" is absolutely essential to the life of the language. Another great song, "2 Kool To Be 4-Gotten," has a haunting guitar behind it that provides just the right amount of illumination for the dark lyrics. "Can't Let Go" and "Joy" are stompers that give Lucinda a chance to show off her great voice.
And what a voice it is. I think "intoxicating" might be the right word, but it probably doesn't do justice to it. She can growl (as on the last two songs mentioned), but she can purr as well, as on "Right in Time.
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33 of 35 people found the following review helpful By Eric A on February 6, 2000
Format: Audio CD
On this CD, Lucinda Williams continues the pattern of superb songwriting and fine arrangements she established with her 1992 masterpiece, SWEET OLD WORLD. That the follow-up CD took so long to complete bespeaks both the emotional struggles Williams draws from in her material and the sense of perfectionism she brings to her work. CAR WHEELS ON A GRAVEL ROAD is a steamy portrait of Williams' native Louisiana. It is lush with swampy images of small towns, which wind their way through moving songs of lost love, whether the mood is sad ("Jackson") or just plain disgusted ("Greenville"). Williams offers a travel guide to bayou country in "Lake Charles": an epitaph to a man who finally returns home in the freedom that death brings. She reveals her gutsy, bluesy side in "Can't Let Go" and the raw, angry swamp rock of "Joy". Some of her finest images of Southern squalor can be found in songs like the title track, "Car Wheels," "Metal Firecracker" and her tribute to blues legend Robert Johnson, "2 Kool 2 Be 4-Gotten". Perhaps the strongest songs musically are the hit-bound rocker "I Lost It" and the opening track, "Right In Time": a deep, erotic moan with a catchy, rocking chorus. The CD is propelled by the crisp rhythm section of drummer Donald Lindley and bassist John Ciambotti, with help from Williams' steadfast multi-instrumentalist, Gurf Morlix. The tight production is a collaboration between Williams and her band. Although Lucinda Williams' vocals may not be as well-developed as those of some of her contemporaries, her honest, poetic lyrics and authentic blues stylings make her one of today's most noteworthy singer-songwriters.
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