Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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***1/2

LUCINDA WILLIAMS
Little Honey
Lost Highway

Reigning roots-rock song poet gets tangled up in her own old themes.

"Standing up behind an electric guitar/It's a real love, it's a real love," Lucinda Williams crows in her well-schooled drawl on the opener. And right, the guitars sound great--the bandleading she revved up after finally putting her songs across commercially with 1998's Car Wheels on a Gravel Road keeps getting more solid and less stolid. Only thing is, Williams is celebrating not the ax but the guy wielding it. And despite the metaphysical yet conversational "Knowing" and a sexed-up title track that begins with his come in her hair, she doesn't offer enough evidence that her new love is any realer than all the others she's exulted and struggled through in eight albums going back to 1979. "Tears of Joy" is as soggy as the cliché it means to redeem, and though "If Wishes Were Horses" turns the same trick with a twist--"I'd have a ranch," nice--its "give me another chance" is just a rhyme. Even more problematic are three artistic travail songs, particularly the unforgivable nine-minute "Rarity," which so overstates its praise for an underappreciated genius it could almost be Williams's love song to herself.

Blender, Nov. 2008