SONGWRITING GODDESS REVISITS EARLY TRIUMP
Lucinda Williams’ This Sweet Old
World, released 25 years ago, tends to be overshadowed by its follow-up, Car Wheels On A Gravel
Road. It’s an understandable state of affairs, given that the latter is an acknowledged classic which won a Grammy and made Rolling Stone’s
“greatest albums of all time” list. Still, it’s a shame, as This Sweet
Old World – with its meditations on suicide, and timeless songs such as ‘Little Angel, ‘Little
Brother’ and ‘Pineola’ – warrants further attention. Williams’ manager/husband Tom Overby certainly thought so, pitching the idea of this complete re-recording. Williams was initially reluctant, the original process having been plagued by an unsympathetic record company. However, the singer changed her mind once she and her crack touring band started into it.
In the intervening years, Williams has released a pretty much flawless series of records, honing her sound, as her voice grew to match her resolutely adult songwriting.
It’s that voice, and an all round tougher production, which make this worth having. Opener ‘Six Blocks Away’ is transformed from something that might have suited The Bangles on a good day, to a chiming beauty that the late Tom Petty would have been proud to call his own.
‘Something About What
Happens When We Touch’, one of Williams’ absolute classics in its original form, is now imbued with a greater longing, carried by her haunting vibrato. The title track, a love letter to the departed, is recast as an even more affecting elegy, the equal of Emmylou Harris’s breathless reading on
OUT NOW / PAT CARTY 1995’s Wrecking Ball. Her cover of Nick Drake’s ‘Which Will’, meanwhile, is now a late night, country soul epic.
If you’re a fan of Williams, and you really should be, you’re on safe ground here. I love the original, but this is even better.