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West

4.1 out of 5 stars 200 customer reviews

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Audio CD, February 13, 2007
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Editorial Reviews

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With West, a disc that may well be Lucinda Williams' most personal work to date, the singer-songwriter channels both her emotion and restive creative energy into a startling set of songs that touch on both darkness and redemption. At turns strikingly spare and compellingly muscular, the album's 13 cuts attest to her willingness to stretch as a musician - and to put herself on the line as a chronicler of life. 'The songs deal with a chapter in my life there's a lot of pain and struggling, but it ends with a look towards the future.' Lucinda Williams.

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Though the arrangements stray from Lucinda Williams's motherlode blend of blues, country, and folk, West may well be her best album. It is easily her most musically adventurous, and often her most lyrically inspired. Williams's singing has never sounded better, from the aching tenderness of "Where Is My Love?" to the ravaged catharsis of "Unsuffer Me." New York producer Hal Willner, who has worked with artists such as Marianne Faithful and Lou Reed, enlists the support of eclectic progressives like guitarist Bill Frisell, keyboardist Bob Burger, and violinist Jenny Scheinman, along with harmonies from the Jayhawks' Gary Louris, to weave a subtly rich sonic tapestry. Much of the material was inspired by the death of Williams's beloved mother ("Mama You Sweet," "Fancy Funeral") and the bitter breakup of a relationship (the jagged-edged emasculation of "Come On," the repetitive incantation of "Wrap My Head Around That"), though "Are You Alright?," "Learning How to Live," and "Everything Has Changed" could reflect the aftermath of both. Other highlights include "Rescue," with a languid subtlety and ambient pulse reminiscent of Beth Orton, and the dreamy, wistful title track. Where Williams's music has long cut close to the bone, the best of West slices right through it. --Don McLeese

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Product Details

  • Audio CD (February 13, 2007)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Lost Highway
  • ASIN: B000LXHGFI
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (200 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #4,396 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Audio CD
It may only be March but I have to say that this is going to be one of my records of the year.

Lucinda Williams has always been a peerless songwriter.She writes about lust, love, and losslike nobody else, and on this album, co-produced with Hal Wilner, she takes on such subjects as her mother's death, the state of the world, and yet another tumultuous relationship which ended badly. It's her usual tough stuff, but this time, Lucinda sneaks in a note of hope and even redemption in the very bluesy mix.

The album's 13 songs together form a largely down-tempo disc, but "West" doesn't only find Williams in a somber mood.

"Mama You Sweet" is upbeat and "Come On" is a nasty, almost raunchy kiss-off, musically akin to "Atonement" from her last album, 2003's "World Without Tears".

She injects doses of hope and light in tracks like "What If", in which she imagines a world where the president wears pink and a prostitute is a queen.

There are uncomfortable truths here, carried on easy-going melodies. "Fancy Funeral" is a wry look at death's priorities that flows as easily as drink.

Williams lost her mother and an errant lover as these songs were being written. These two truncated relationships fill "West" with exquisitely turned suffering; Williams and band provides the expert musical succour. Hal Wilner is the producer who organised this record's quietly unconventional sounds as Williams wanted them.

Equally raw and sensual is the unravelling blues of "Unsuffer Me", where Williams's ravaged voice begs: "Undo my logic/ Undo my fear" with an intensity that verges on the erotic.
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On August 10, 2005 Lucinda Williams played at the North Carolina Museum of Art in Raleigh. It was the last live concert that my wife and I saw together. Lucinda was touring in support of "Live @ the Fillmore" & said she was writing songs for a new record. As I recall, she played a new song she said she'd recently written, "Everything Has Changed." I preordered Lucinda's "West" set while my wife was still here. Today marks the fourth week since breast cancer ripped a giant unfillable hole in my universe. Lucinda lost her mother; and so themes of adjustment to loss not only resonate with me, they punctuate every breath I take. I spin the CD & Lucinda's gentle aching voice comes on, "Are you alight?" When people ask me that, I want to say, "He*l no!" But when she sings, "All of a sudden you went away; I hope you come back around someday; I haven't seen you in a real long time; Could you give me some kind of sign? Are you alright? ...Cause I've been feeling a little scared," it sounds like she's tapped into my inner dialogue as I look toward heaven and speak to the one I love. What an amazing song, "Just tell me that you're okay." If this were the only song on the CD, it'd be worth it.

"Unsuffer Me" is a grueling unflinching look at the pain of loss. Sometimes you have to stare it in the face to get through it. "Anoint my head with your sweet kiss, my joy is dead; I long for bliss," she sings as what I assume is Dan Pettibone's electric guitar churns mercilessly. Yet somehow the song achieves a magical dignity. During my wife's last weeks, my daughter said to me, "It's like watching a train wreck; you can't look away." There something of that strength that comes through in Williams' music.

Other cuts are also amazing.
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Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
West marks a different direction for Lucinda Williams. Her last studio album, World Without Tears, was recorded live in the studio (i.e., the whole band is playing together simultaneously, not laying down separate tracks). That approach yielded a rugged and raw production that was a departure from the highly polished recordings embodied in Essence and Car Wheels, the two albums through which many of Lucinda's current fans discovered her. West does not have that "live in the studio" rawness, but it has a looser feel than Essence and Car Wheels. (I'm listening on good headphones with a good headphone amplifier; the recorded sound is gorgeous and the textures of the music and Lucinda's vocals are amazing.) It has that effortless quality that demonstrates just how much effort went into getting it right.

West shows that Lucinda has matured significantly. She worked out a lot of raw emotion through World Without Tears and the ensuing live album. West doesn't sound as edgy or raw as those recordings, though "Come On" does come close. At the same time, West also sounds more organic and earthy than many of the tracks on Essence. And as many reviewers are already pointing out, it doesn't sound the way Car Wheels does either. But it doesn't need to sound the way Car Wheels does. At first blush, West sounds like something of a new direction for her, but I get the sense that if you take the time to listen carefully, you'll recognize that the songwriting talents that have made her such a unique performer in our disposable age are here in spades. The songs and lyrics are as intimate, engaging, and heartfelt as anything she's written or sung in the past two decades, if not more so. There is something immediately familiar about them.
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