4/4 for Little Honey
Country rocker Lucinda Williams, well-known for her moody introspection, has said she's ''in a different phase of my life, so there are more happy moments'' on Little Honey, her ninth album. Truth is, she sounds downright giddy much of the time.
Real Love, the first single, is a gleefully jagged romp, its crisp Stones-y guitars slicing underneath Williams' sloppy yet on-target vocals: 'Thing about you so far -- you squeeze my peaches/And you send me postcards of girls on beaches/You're drinkin' in a bar in Amsterdam/I'm thinkin' ''Baby, far out -- be my man'/It's a real love.'' On the all-out rocker Honey Bee, when Williams growls, ''Now I got your sweetness all up in my hair,'' it sounds joyful and free, not lewd.
Williams' trailer-park purr holds up well against Elvis Costello's distinctive nasal slur on the playful he-said, she-said banter of Jailhouse Tears. He says, ''I just went to the corner to get a six-pack.'' She spits back, ''You're a drunk, you're a stoner/You never came back.'' He pleads, ''I used to be a user -- now I'm out of stuff,'' and she snarls, ``You're a three-time loser/You're all f- - - - - up.''
Of course, all great country records have to have at least a few weepers. On the lazily paced Circles and X's, Williams laments, ''Nothing left to be sorry for, but I still sit and sob.'' Tears of Joy adds a sharp storyteller's touch to straight-up, whiskey-swayin' blues: 'In my own little world since I was 16/Little Miss Playgirl makin' the scene/Then you took this girl/And you made her your queen/That's why I'm cryin' tears of joy.'' Williams' tears turn to pain, though, when she follows the title of the maudlin If Wishes Were Horses with ``I have a ranch -- come on and give me another chance.''
The sobering Little Rock Star offers a different perspective on the sad saga of drug-addled British rocker Pete Doherty, who has become a favorite tabloid target: ''Your lovely eyes, they close like petals/Your sweet surprise could win you medals/You strut your stuff and you fan your peacock feathers.'' Williams comes across like a weary mother who's seen it all before: ``Hey little rock star, why don't you see? This is not all that it's cracked up to be.''
But Little Honey certainly is. Plenty of singer-songwriters are perfectly capable of matching up clever lyrics and pleasant melodies. Williams writes prize-winning short stories and puts them to music. Insanely good music.
Pod Picks: Jailhouse Tears, Real Love, Honey Bee.