MUSIC REVIEW | Lucinda Williams – Car Wheels on a Gravel Road (1998)

In a nutshell, Bored & Dangerous says: “The kind of song that I hope would be playing if I ever walked into a southern bar.”

Lucinda 1.jpg
Kicking off with Right In Time, Lucinda Williams and Car Wheels on a Gravel Road are exactly what I think of when I think of 90s, mainstream country.  In the 90s, when this record was made, I hated that kind of thing.  But these days, I more and more appreciate that country music is where you’ll find some of the best musicians in popular music, as well as some of the best song writers.  Which is what Right In Time delivers.  Solid, tight, disciplined song writing with hooks and melodies that are fresh and familiar at the same time.  With a backing band that knows how to service a song, and flex their muscles without ever getting ion the way.

While there’s a slight twang to Williams’ voice, with down home lyrical allusions, the title track and 2 Kool 2 Be 4-Gotten are more 90s indies rock than country.  Drunken Angel then highlights a great thing about Williams, her song writing and her voice.  She is more than capable of singing in a traditionally pretty way, but even at her “nicest”, she still has an edge and attitude, that she takes advantage of by using her to deliver some amazingly dry and biting lyrics.

The countryfied affectations comes back in full effect on the slow swing and slide guitar filled Concrete and Barbed Wire.  Williams even indulges in a little vocal warble to make this country lament all the more sad in a really enjoyable way.  But that aint got nothin’ on the 12 bar country rock of Can’t Let Go.  This is the kind of song that I hope would playing if I ever walked into a southern bar where the darkened windows and thick smoke in the air mean midnight and midday look the same.
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After some more indie rock with I Lost It, and more mainstream country with Metal Firecracker, Car Wheels on a Gravel Road gets small, personal and introverted on the acoustic reminiscing of Greenville.  Still mixing things up right until the end, penultimate track Joy is a weird fusion of country, rock and funk combines for a really cool sound that I don’t think I’ve heard much elsewhere.  But possibly the best is saved for last with the guitar and vocal sparseness of Jackson.  This song is all about Lucinda Williams’ voice and delivery, and she makes the most of it.

Lucinda Williams

Other Opinions Are Available.  What did these people have to say about Car Wheels on a Gravel Road?
The A.V Club
Rolling Stone
A Fifty Cent Lighter and a Whiskey Buzz

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