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From the book 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die.

Car Wheels On A Gravel Road

Lucinda Williams

1998

Buy At Rough Trade
Car Wheels On A Gravel Road
Album Summary

Car Wheels on a Gravel Road is the fifth studio album by American singer-songwriter Lucinda Williams, released on June 30, 1998, by Mercury Records. The album was recorded and co-produced by Williams in Nashville, Tennessee and Canoga Park, California, and features guest appearances by Steve Earle and Emmylou Harris. Universally acclaimed by critics, Car Wheels on a Gravel Road was voted as the best album of 1998 in The Village Voice's annual Pazz & Jop critics poll, and ranked No. 98 on the 2020 revision of Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Albums of All Time. It won the Grammy Award for Best Contemporary Folk Album in 1999, and earned Williams' an additional nomination for Best Female Rock Vocal Performance for the single "Can't Let Go". The album peaked at No. 68 on the Billboard 200, and remained on the chart for over five months, eventually becoming Williams' first album to be certified Gold by the RIAA. It remains Williams' best-selling album to date, with 872,000 copies sold in the US alone, as of October 2014. Additionally, it was certified Silver in the UK on July 22, 2013.

Wikipedia

Rating

2.97

Votes

10196
Genres
Country
Folk
Singer Songwriter

Reviews

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Sat May 01 2021
1

It's hard to understand how Car Wheels On A Gravel Road could be recommended at all, let alone make it onto a list like 1001 albums. The music is generic modern country, not distinguished by creative songwriting, kickass soloists, or anything else, unless you count the Cajun lilt on a few tunes. Maybe the blandness of the music is meant to highlight the stellar pipes of Lucina Williams? Nope. Her voice is as homely and dull as dishwater. But surely the lyrics are superior? Well, not really. Lucina Williams frontloads her best tunes; the first several songs demonstrate a keen grasp of quotidian life and a sure sense of place, but by the end of the album, the lyrics are so generic they could have been written by a computer program. The best compliment I can give Car Wheels On A Gravel Road is that it isn't actively unpleasant--just boring. Is this the best modern country has to offer? I sure hope not.

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Mon Feb 15 2021
2

“Car Wheels on a Gravel Road” by Lucinda Williams (2006) Never heard of this album or this artist. I took a different approach with this one: I read the Wikipedia article on the album and the one on Lucinda Williams, plus I checked out the lyrics, all before starting to listen. I was expecting something nice. I was disappointed. In the first couple of songs, the vocal quality is worse than not good—it’s uninteresting. Later in the album she does some vocal stylings in the upper parts of her range which are good, which reveals that her usual lazy, out-of-tune style is affected, not natural. It’s off putting to me. It lacks authenticity. Her voice is much better when she’s forced to blend with another singer—another indication that drunk-sounding style (as on “Drunken Angel”) is a put on. Also, she intentionally varies the degree of her southern accent. She really pours it on in the song “Concrete and Barbed Wire”. Creepy. In “Greenville“ her vocals are better, because, I think, in this case she’s forced to blend with Emmy Lou Harris. As in “Heartbreaker” by Ryan Adams (reviewed a few days back), here’s Emmy Lou again, putting in a mediocre backup performance. Williams and Harris don’t blend, but at least Williams appears to try. Standard chord structures and rhythms with good backing instrumentals and recording quality, but her contribution to the music is limited to guitar—not much to showcase. The songwriting is what she’s known for, and she does have some talent here, painting poetic pictures of southern lower middle class ambiance. But there’s nothing here that has power. Only pity. This recording won the Grammy for Best Contemporary Folk Album of 1998. Hmmm. 2/5

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Sun Feb 21 2021
5

call it country or call it a comeback, it's a god damn masterpiece. love letter to dive bars, breakup letter to pain. fav track: 2 kool 2 be 4-gotten

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Tue Jul 06 2021
4

Had no idea who this artist was (possibly a result of my overall lack of country music knowledge) but she's left an immediate impression on me. Just a country gal with a lot of soul. It's lonely, longing, but not depressing. It's a sort of familiar loneliness that you can appreciate and drift away with. The album never dwells on one feeling for too long though, as it picks up and slows down in nice peaks and valleys. Some songs lean further in a country rock direction than simple folk. This variation is welcomed and makes the music all the more enjoyable.

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Wed Jul 06 2022
5

My rating for today is not based as much on the music or lyrics (which I did enjoy) as it is on the experience that this album gave to me today. My familiarity with Lucinda Williams comes from a friend including a selection of her tunes on some mixed tapes. Although that friend died a little over a year ago, she definitely accompanied me on my walk today as I listened to the album. She even made a point to give me a nod through a passer-by...The person asked me what time it was so that I could tell them the time and then mumble, "If you want to know the time, buy a watch."

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Sat Jul 10 2021
4

Never been all that much of a Country guy but when it comes to the travails of love and lust there is material like this that deftly trumps any rock and roll dicks out bombast... "I take off my watch and my earrings My bracelets and everything Lie on my back and moan at the ceiling Oh my baby" No content warning on that, damn.

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Mon Sep 06 2021
4

I really like her voice and style, it reminds me of a feminine version of the guy from the Eels for some reason. Great songs throughout. I just wish it didn’t get so samey, but that’s the nature of the genre sometimes.

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Thu Mar 17 2022
1

Thoroughly boring and forgettable. Sounds like royalty free music composed for the SUV commercials that run after an episode of Pioneer Woman. The fact that this is Rolling Stone Magazine's 98th best album of all time shows what a complete disgrace that magazine is. Some albums get onto these sorts of lists not because the MUSIC is good or impressive, but because of their cultural context. Like wow a country woman lazily singing about “Broken down shacks, engine parts”, this album must be so heckin culturally significant!!! As if that's what makes a good album I like old folksy country music quite a bit, from the 1970s and earlier. But modern country utterly disgusts me. The way she pronounces "Pierce the skin and the blood runs through" in the first song makes me vomit.

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Tue Aug 24 2021
5

Beautiful - it doesn't sound like she's copying an older band but still is remaining true to country roots while sounding modern and fresh.

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Thu Sep 30 2021
5

I’m shocked how much I liked this, not at all my typical style but it’s just so good.

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Fri Mar 24 2023
5

Whatever else you might think of the genre, there’s no denying that this is a finely crafted, beautifully assembled collection of songs. The production is excellent and the arrangements are terrific. Williams has a knack for evocative images and storytelling. There’s a veracity and an authenticity to the writing.

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Thu Apr 15 2021
4

Not sure if I'd rank this as one of the "1001 best ever", but I really liked this! I love Americana, and the crossroads of Blues, Country, and Rock. Titular track, Lake Charles, Greenville, and Still Long For Your Kiss are all highlights.

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Wed Mar 17 2021
5

Sheryl Crow vibes, great mellow listen. Will explore artist more.

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Thu Feb 25 2021
5

That was really quite excellent. Americana that I had missed.

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Thu Apr 22 2021
5

Really good album, with a smooth voice and country/folk/rock tunes

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Fri Apr 16 2021
5

Dette er omtrent så bra country kan bli for min del! Lydbildet tar meg rett til Nashvilles skitne underside, med triste små barer og kjærester i fengsel. Tekstene har så klart litt av de vanlige country-klisjeene, men føles dypere, skarpere og mer inderlig enn det meste man hører i sjangeren. Og vokalen til Williams passer perfekt, fra savnet på Drunken Angel, til rebelsk "twang" på Joy. Låtene spenner fra klassiske country-ballader (Jackson 💕) til bluesrock, og jeg koser meg hele veien. Liker spesielt godt Joy, Drunken Angel, car wheels...

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Wed Aug 25 2021
5

Great country album, a benchmark for the genre.

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Thu Oct 07 2021
5

A good album, reminds me of Tori Amos (or is it the other way round) a bit, or even a female Steve Forbert maybe? Some good tunes though and lyrically very strong I think.

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Fri Mar 25 2022
5

My first 5 starrer here. Fantastic record

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Mon Sep 19 2022
5

I got this album on release. As soon as I heard her lyrics refer to the "Drunken Angel" as a "derelict in duck tape shoes", it easily became my favourite album I bought in years and one of my ATF country albums. She was loaded with angst at the time she wrote this and poured her soul into it. The subsequent albums she made (that I've heard) haven't come close to this gem. I guess she became happier. Good for her.

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Fri Sep 30 2022
5

All good songs, and even a couple hits

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Sun Nov 20 2022
5

Just oozes authenticity. This is perhaps a bit less raggedly confessional or emotionally raw as some of her other records, which might cost a bit of power, but it also avoids the risk of sloppy sentimentality (which has been a bit of a occupational hazard for Lu) and gives a sense of control and mastery of every song. This is musicmaking at a very high level, well conceived, extremely well executed, and not overdone or showy. Every song works, and the first five are uniformly strong. The songwriting is terrific, the playing expertly professional. She's a true artist it's hard to believe there's only one of her records on this esteemed list.

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Thu Nov 24 2022
5

Song after song I thought Oh, this is a good one!

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Wed Dec 21 2022
5

"Car Wheels on a Gravel Road" is the fifth studio album from American singer-songwriter Lucinda Williams. The style of music is a mixture of country, pop, blues and folk and really one the albums that began and popularized the Americana/alt country genre. Yeah, when you begin a genre that's a pretty big thing and this album is worthy of that. There are guest appearances by Steve Earle and Emmylou Harris and were multiple producers in Earle, Roy Brittan, Ray Kennedy and Lucinda herself. A good description of the album are themes of heartbreak, love and losing formers lovers and friends with imagery of traveling through/in cities in the US South. The album won the 1998 Grammy for Best Contemporary Folk Album and Village Voice voted it the best 1998 album. Well deserved. A twangy guitar and Lucinda's exhausted voice begins "Right in Time." A great melody and pretty much a perfect sounding pop song. About her losing someone that you thought was perfect for you and, then, ummm, about enjoying yourself thinking about him. Lucinda adds some urgency in her voice to "Drunken Angels." Boy, the layered guitar production is great on this album. A more rock song. The song is about musician Blaze Foley who was shot by his friend's son in a drunken fight. The guitars give "Can't Let Go" a jamming, grinding feel. Great slide guitar and guitar solo. A guy left her and she can't forget about him. "Still I Long for Your Kiss" has a country-rock vibe. Some more great layered guitars and solos. Another song about not wanting to let someone go. Lucinda gives a rap singing style to "Joy" with bluesy guitars and a slide guitar. She traveling from town to town and about a former lover. The album concludes with the soulful/gospel-esque ballad "Jackson." She's traveling from Lafayette to Baton Rouge to Jackson trying to convince herself she won't miss her boyfriend. The album sounded absolutely great not aging since 1998. The production is fantastic and the album just moves along. Multiple styles heard but really in its own category. A must listen.

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Sun Jan 08 2023
5

Je sais pas pourquoi mais je me rend compte que j'adore le country,surtour pour des al ums ecoeurant comme ca et a petite dose. 5

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Mon Feb 27 2023
5

It's great. My name is Dan. I'M STEALING OTHER DANS account. - Other Dan

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Mon Mar 27 2023
5

It was a few years after-the-fact when I first listened to this one but it deserves every single bit of praise it gets. An all-timer.

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Sun Apr 16 2023
5

Refined songs with extraordinary vocals and just the right amount of edges.

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Sun Apr 16 2023
5

Absolutely flawless. Top-notch americana.

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Wed May 31 2023
5

Almost as amazing as her movie scores of star wars and Harry Potter 2

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Mon Jul 17 2023
5

I wasn’t expecting to like this as much as I did, considering I wasn’t very positive about it when I first heard it. But, outside of one glaring exception (‘Joy’ is incredibly stupid), the songs are all great. It keeps an incredible consistency in being good, and the songs are enjoyable with good lyrics. Really, I don’t completely know why I’m rating it so high, but I really enjoy it.

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Fri Sep 22 2023
5

What an amazing album. Great music, fantastic singing, and songwriting that is simply next level. 5 stars

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Fri Oct 13 2023
5

Really nice music here that just feels good to listen to. I’m torn between a 4 and a 5, but it has been growing on me as I listen so I’ll round up. I do like her self titled album more though. Fave songs: Can’t Let Go, Still I Long For Your Kiss (awesome guitar solo) Jackson. Glad to hear something like this on the list.

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Fri Oct 13 2023
5

This album introduced me to Lucinda Williams. Not a bad song on here and some are truly great. She's a fantastic storyteller and brilliant, emotional, songwriter. This album is the definition of "americana" style rock. Definitely straddles genres and blends them together seamlessly. Didn't realize that the album was produced by a combination of Roy Bittan and Steve Earle, which is another thing to love about it.

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Fri Oct 13 2023
5

This kind of blew me away. The production was phenomenal - really transported me to a sunny, dry afternoon in the country. Top notch songwriting. Can’t think of any reason to go below a 5.

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Fri Oct 13 2023
5

Love me some Lucinda, and this is absolutely the album to pick. Roots, country, blues and folk blended together perfectly with her trademark lyricism while escaping the trappings of so many now-dated sounding 90s albums.

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Mon Oct 16 2023
5

My all time favorite country/americana album. The images Lucinda Williams are able to describe with her frail but powerful voice are incredibly vivid.

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Tue Oct 24 2023
5

Another alt-country classic. I'd say it's probably more of a 4 for me but the community score for this is criminally bad. It's getting a 5, it deserves it for its influence on the scene alone.

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Fri Oct 27 2023
5

Oldie but goodie with lots of memories attached.

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Thu Nov 02 2023
5

So glad to see this gem on the list. So many amazing songs.

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Mon Nov 27 2023
5

A true artist, who puts it all out there and in nearly every song – aching and vulnerable heart, deep and yearning soul, sharp mind and a spirit roughly the size of the continent. Sometimes she overdoes it but this is extraordinary well balanced with the raw power channeled powerfully and beautifully. Plus it's extraordinarily well crafted and executed -- a fully worthy Grammy winner for sure. Several pure classics here and not a dog in the bunch. Great writing (alternatingly poetic, short storyesque and journalistic), mastery of the mid-tempo, and authenticity that puts most other artists (in this genre or adjacents) utterly to shame. That the music business (i.e., record cos) didn’t know what to do with her illustrates just how clueless and soulless it is. That only one of her records is in this esteemed list suggests the same of the editors. And someone pls explain why Greil Marcus so loathes the lady.

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Thu Jan 11 2024
5

Love Lucinda. Gritty Americana.

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Wed Jan 24 2024
5

Lucinda Williams - Car Wheels on a Gravel Road This album poves to me that our musical tastes can change. I bought this CD when it first came out and I didn't really like it. Looking back, I'm not sure why that was. But listening to it today (over 25 years later) I find this album fits my musical tastes. At the time this would have been considered Alternative Country, but today we'd call it Americana. Which is a genre I love. This album is amazing and I may need to start incorporating more Lucinda Williams into my listening during the day. Hey voice fits these songs and I now completely understand the hype surrounding this album when it came out. I just want ready at 25 but at 51, I get it! Lucinda is an American treasure! 5/5

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Mon Jan 29 2024
5

One of my favorite singer-songwriter albums. Nothing but great songs and memorable melodies front to back. The first six songs in particular are fantastic. “Joy” is such a good rocker! That chorus is a head-banging, get the crowd chanting anthem. It’s got a great rough and sloppy guitar solo too!

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Wed Feb 07 2024
5

I've often said in my reviews that I'm not too much into country or country-rock, but it seems *Car Wheels On The Gravel Road* is one of the (stellar) exceptions to this rule of thumb, which proves the reputation of this record is well-deserved (at least for me). Maybe it's because of the overall "sound" of the album, very much indebted to nineties alt-rock as well, or because of William's voice--rough around the edges in ways that I usually love, and reminding me of other "alternative" artists such as Lisa Germano. Or maybe it's just because of the great songs and instrumentations--catchy on the surface, but also displaying some interesting textures for the genre once in a while--accordion and/or quite noisy electric guitar riffs played by expert musicians around Lucinda. And the lyrics are so damn evocative: you really feel like you're sharing the routines of distraught young or middle-aged women living in the deep south, stuck in old houses with a quaint charm sprouting out of fields in the sticks, going from boyfriends / husbands doing time in jail to other deadbeat alcoholic boyfriends met in seedy dive bars, or visiting piss-poor friends and their families in the neighboorhood. "Leaning against the railing of a Lake Charles bridge / Overlooking the river, leaning over the edge / He asked me; "Would you jump into the water with me?" / I told him: "No way baby, it's your own death, you see". Those lines ending " 2 Kool 2 Be 4-Gotten" are just one example of how evocative those lyrics can be. There's not a single dud in this LP, at least if you take it as a panorama of all that country-rock has to offer when it's aptly written and performed. Sure, you have some unavoidable musical and lyrical clichés here and there, but the latter are always served with some tasty gravy on the side. Some isolated diners found on the road can sometimes serve you meals as memorable as the ones of fancy restaurants, as "simple" as those meals can look on the menu. Because *all* those songs have something valuable to bring to the table, and the dynamics of the tracklisting, the way those cuts displaying so many different moods are following each other, create one of those records that are always a "joy" to return to. The lively jam of the penultimate song bearing that name is one of the highlights of the album by the way, and so is the simple-yet-heartfelt acoustic ballad "Jackson" closing the proceedings. And speaking of highlights, opener "Right In Time", the title-track, " 2 Kool 2 Be 4-Gotten", along with that other acoustic ballad "Concrete And Barbed Wire" and that killer cover of Randy Weeks' "Can't Let Go" are not to be missed as well. So I'm delighted to add Lucinda Williams to my list of "exceptions" when it comes to country and country-rock (Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson, The Flying Burrito Brothers, along with some strings of songs by Loretta Lynn, Dolly Parton or Marty Robbins). And I'm ready to leave a huge tip on the table. 5 stars then. Number of albums left to review: 291 Number of albums from the list I find relevant enough to be mandatory listens: 313 Albums from the list I *might* include in mine later on: 171 Albums from the list I won't include in mine (many other records are more important to me): 230

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Sun Feb 11 2024
5

5/5. Hard to find fault in these collection of Americana songs. Just back to back, wonderful simple vocals from Lucinda on all songs. Catchy lyrics, easy to sing with, or listen and enjoy the breezy and thoughtful music. Love this, no notes.

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Tue Feb 20 2024
5

Nothing supports time travel quite like an amazing album. I was at Rehobeth Beach, summer 1998 with my girlfriends all morning while listening to this. This album was on repeat on WXPN back in the day and the CD traveled with me everywhere that year. Jen and I went to see Lucinda on South Street too. I love this albums so deeply.

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Tue Feb 20 2024
5

Her raw, gritty voice perfectly matches the words and music. The song Car Wheels… makes me think fondly of my own childhood in a rural community with unpaved roads and free-range cousins. I can still sing along to every song.

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Thu Feb 22 2024
5

I had never listened to Lucinda Williams other than hearing something on the radio. I love this album and the way she sings, its best when it feels loose and spontaneous. I will definitely listen to this again. Will also look at some live performances because i bet they are great.

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Wed Mar 06 2024
5

Kakvo jebeno remek djelo naslovna stvar je savršenstvo

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Thu Jul 22 2021
4

interesting voice and tempo, the sound quality is pretty nice and most songs are good

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Wed Jun 16 2021
4

First song is a old indie country bop, and the rest is good country songs if i am in the mood for that relaxing country

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Wed Mar 03 2021
4

Despite this being a country album, quite enjoyed some of the songs, especially the last song, Jackson.

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Thu Feb 25 2021
4

Great album all around! I've listened through the regular version, but the deluxe is a nice step up. Disk 2 is all live versions, so I didn't get that far, but I love Lucinda!

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Wed Apr 14 2021
4

Love this album and love Lucinda Williams. 4 stars.

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Fri Jul 02 2021
4

not bad, one of a few country albums I actually enjoy

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Tue Apr 27 2021
4

A nice country folk rock album better than expected

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Fri Jan 22 2021
4

I love Lucinda Williams and I love this album... but the song title 2 Kool 2 Be 4-Gotten detracts a star.

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Thu Apr 01 2021
4

Not the sort of thing I'd normally listen to but really enjoyed this. Will listen again.

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Sat Apr 10 2021
4

Good country music, what else do I have to say?

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Thu Apr 01 2021
4

Почему бы и не кантри

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Wed Mar 24 2021
4

nie znałam zupełnie przyjemne, choć monotonne

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Mon May 10 2021
4

Noch nie gehört, aber werde mich damit beschäftigen. Tolles Album!

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Tue Jun 15 2021
4

I thought i would know what this would sound like being a hater of country music, but it was more like a rock album and absolutely loved it. Song 7 was the highlight - Can't Let Go. Will give it another listen 4 stars

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Tue May 04 2021
4

wow, I was familiar with her, but I didn't know Lucinda Williams had an album this good

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Mon Jun 14 2021
4

Never heard of Lucinda Williams before, but loved this album. Favorite song was can’t let go.

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Sat Jul 31 2021
4

Really solid Southern roots rock/country featuring Emmylou Harris and Steve Earle. What else could you want? I enjoyed reading about how Lucinda persevered and made it in the music business despite all of the forces working against her. Best track: Drunken Angel

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Sun Aug 01 2021
4

4.0 - Enjoyed this! Honest American songwriting, blues and country inflected. Straightforward instrumentation with a live studio recording feel. Some pleasant storytelling, shoutouts to Louisiana. Nice driving record and a crowd pleaser.

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Thu Aug 19 2021
4

More of Jess bag than Ian. But her voice conveys pain and longing. Certainly a lot of depth and attests to a life lived.

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Fri Sep 03 2021
4

Lo escuché muy a gusto, pensé que es una antecedente de Taylor Swift (???) y su voz me agrada bastante. Canciones fav: la que da título al disco, "Can't Let Go" y "I Lost It". 8/10

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Mon Sep 06 2021
4

Somber morning Americana with some excellent twang to it embellished by guest vocals.

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Sun Sep 26 2021
4

Хорошее такое кантри, захотелось в село, пить из соломинки самогон)

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Thu Nov 18 2021
4

Okay I might like some country

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Thu Jan 13 2022
4

I really liked this album, and would never have found it if not for this website.

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Fri Jan 21 2022
4

Uh, 2 CD-a. Iznenađujuće dobar đir. Možda bi bilo malo dosadno da san slušala i ne radila ništa, a ne da san radila još dosadniji labos. Greenwill mi je najbolja. Nikad čula za Lucindu, al bolje nego većina ostalih country koje san slušala do sad

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Mon Feb 07 2022
4

Great surprise. I really liked it. The melodies are great. More a rock and pop album than a country album.

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Fri Feb 18 2022
4

A few years ago I was listening to spotify similar to playlists and songs from this album were on that list. Prior to this I was never really into any form of country music, but I enjoyed the songs and decided to listen to this album in full. It completely worked for me and introduce me to the genre. Lucinda Williams has led me to other country acts and it's a genre that has some really great music if you avoid the mediocre radio pushed country. 4.5/5

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Fri Mar 11 2022
4

Love the album cover for some reason... And hey, it's pretty good roots, blues, souly country AND western. Generous 4/5

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Wed May 18 2022
4

surprisingly good. Also, she must be friends with Sheryl Crow

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Mon May 23 2022
4

As a country album, it's an equivalent of a white bread. And... I liked it. Being a perfectionist, Williams reportedly released this album six yees after her previous one. While conflicts does contribute to this delay, I can still observe the sanitized feel of the album. I love her voice. It's soothing and when used well, it carries emotion like it's a wave. But even that is generic. Not even the admittedly nice interaction with the male backing vocals made it a unique voice. The instrumentals are pretty good. Everything is in the right place, but ultimately, it becomes a bit predictable, and therefore uninteresting. The production is neat, but again, generic. The critics were praising her songwriting skills. Judging by the tracks' titles, it might be interesting but I don't want to explore it further. Again, this is like white bread. That mass produced, generic commodity that one can find in the local store. Her perfectionism might have made her album overtidy and uninteresting, but I've got to admit that she still did a great job crafting its overall sound. I unashamedly enjoyed this white bread, and I don't mind consuming it again... after a while.

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Wed Jun 01 2022
4

I love Folk Rock so Americana and some Alt Country is fully in my lane. And knowing that she toured with Jason Isbell just makes me like her and this album more. "Right In Time" and the titular track were two of my favorites. I certainly attach more to the Americana aspects, but it is good Country music too. A very re-listenable album for sure!

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