Sweet Old World

Lucinda Williams

Chameleon Records, 1992

REVIEW BY: Sean McCarthy

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 11/02/1999

Most any musical artist today will scowl when someone tries to peg their style down to a particular genre. Can you imagine asking Prin...URHHH... "The Artist" about if the new album will be his typical R&B stuff, asking Tool how it feels to be such an innovative heavy metal band? Or asking Lucinda Williams why she hasn't broke it big in the "country" market?

Lucinda Williams is a near legendary singer-songwriter known for taking about a half-decade to make each album. Too unconventional to fit into the new country flock and too roots oriented to cross over into adult contemporary, Williams is burdened by her greatest gift: her songwriting.

So, you can't really blame her for trying to get a little karma from the contemporary country music explosion of the early 1990's with her album, Sweet Old World. After all, Garth Brooks was breaking the sales registers, people were doing the "Achy Breaky" and hoot skooting to the local country swing bar.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Sweet Old World sounds more polished than her 1988 major label debut. And Sweet Old World had what it took to get to the top of the country music charts: she had a pensive ballad to hook in the baby boomers ("Prove My Love") and a playful ditty that would go great on the dance floor with "Lines Around Your Eyes."

But she was still Lucinda Williams. The opening song, "Six Blocks Away," opens with a lovely visual play on a guy who works at a donut shop who is lovelorn. But don't awwww...yet. By the end of the song, we see the person walking erratically down the street and avoiding contact with other people. By the end of the song, we've got a clear cut stalker as the center of attention of the song.

Another raw song, "Pineola," tells the story of a little girl who is coming to terms with the suicide of a family friend. Her heartful lyrics feel as raw as a sudden dust storm. "Born and raises in Pineola / His mama believed in the Pentecost / She got the preacher to say some words / So his soul it wouldn't be lost," it's an unforgettable lyric.

Those who love Bonnie Raitt should by all means pick up Sweet Old World just to hear the blues shuffle of "Hot Blood." Another ballad, "Something About What Happens When We Talk," stand up with some of Raitt's best work. Again, her barren delivery of lyrics like, "Conversation with you was like a drug / It wasn't your face/ so much as it was your words."

For songwriters, Williams is a great example of how someone can be a great songwriter by using simple words and phrases. Only problem is that for every brilliant writer like that, there is about 1,000 bad poets who are trying right now to find the right rhyme for "beer" or "irony."

Lucinda Williams got even better with her craft with her excellent album, Car Wheels On A Gravel Road. True, Sweet Old World stands as a class by itself, but it seems that sometimes Williams' true self shines in half of the brilliant songs and the two or three commercial songs in it feel like she was forced to put them on just to move some copies at the record stores. But heayah, if there's any artist out there that deserves to make a comfortable living by writing great songs, it is certainly Lucinda Williams.

Rating: B+

User Rating: Not Yet Rated


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© 1999 Sean McCarthy and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Chameleon Records, and is used for informational purposes only.