Lucinda Williams, universally hailed as a major talent by both critics and fellow musicians, is now considered to be one of America's finest singer-songwriters. Over the course of three decades of performing and recording, Williams' sound had evolved into a seamless blend of country, blues, folk, and rock. Her first four albums 1979's Ramblin' On My Mind, 1980's Happy Woman Blues, 1988's Lucinda Williams and 1992's Sweet Old World were all hailed as major works by a major talent, but it was her fifth album, the much anticipated 1998 Mercury release Car Wheels On A Gravel Road, that served as her commercial breakthrough, establishing her as a major artist. Recorded over a period of three years, with production duties by Steve Earle and Ray Kennedy (The Twangtrust), Roy Bittan and Lucinda Williams, and mixed by Rick Rubin and Jim Scott, Car Wheels On A Gravel Road earned Lucinda Williams a Gold Album and the Grammyr Award for Best Contemporary Folk Album. DISC ONE: Features a newly remastered version of the album! Three additional songs (two previously unreleased) an alternate version of Still I Long For Your Kiss, the blues-drenched studio out-take Down The Big Road Blues, and the original unissued version of Out Of Touch, both recorded during the first Gurf Morlix produced sessions in Austin, Texas. DISC TWO: Previously unreleased full concert performance from WXPN LIVE AT THE WORLD CAF recorded July 11, 1998. Features thirteen performances drawn from the Car Wheels album, as well as riveting versions of some of her earlier-penned songs Pineola, Hot Blood and Changed The Locks. Includes guest performers Steve Earle, Emmylou Harris, Charlie Sexton and Buddy Miller. Deluxe digipak packaging features lyrics, photos and more.
This 1998 Grammy-winning release--Lucinda Williams's popular breakthrough--certainly merits the double-disc "deluxe edition" treatment. And it's hard to find significant fault with anything here: the remastered version of the original album, the second-disc live performance from that year featuring guitarists Kenny Vaughn and Bo Ramsey, and the smattering of outtakes (highlighted by a slower, sadder version of "Out of Touch" than the one Williams ended up releasing). Yet the set misses a glorious opportunity to document one of the more laborious (and notorious) recording projects, one that saw Williams switch cities, studios, and producers three times before she was satisfied with the results. And while the results confirm her judgment, fans would likely find it fascinating to hear a lot more takes from the original Austin sessions (featuring accordion master Flaco Jimenez and keyboardist Ian McLagan) or outtakes from the Nashville sessions with producer Steve Earle, before Williams overhauled the project in Los Angeles with Springsteen keyboardist Roy Bittan. Such a set could have put a revelatory spotlight on the creative process that resulted in an album widely regarded as Williams's masterpiece; instead, this release is more like souvenir snapshots. --Don McLeese