Bubbling Over with Unrequited Love
IN LAST YEAR'S WEST, Lucinda Williams turned her grief to her advantage, crafting some of the most intense songs of her career following the loss of her mother and a failed relationship. Now she's in a new one, with co-producer Tom Overby (the other producer is Eric Liljestrand), and things are looking up: Little Honey is bubbling over with unrequited love, bliss and optimism. There's nary a trace of the depression and resignation that marked West. For much of Little Honey, she makes much out of little. "Real Love," the opener, cranks right into a Stones/Zep riff and a declaration: "I found my love I've been looking for, it's a real love." Sophomoric? Maybe. But then sometimes the best love songs needn't say more.
Some of the songs have been lying around for a while. The swampy rockabilly "Well Well Well" was originally cut as a demo in 1992; here it features Jim Lauderdale and Charlie Louvin helping out on vocals. "Circles and X's" is also a leftover. But most are newly tailored for the occasion. On "Honey Bee," a sing-songy Creedence-eque rocker, Williams conveys her thrill: "Oh, my little honey bee, I'm so glad you saw me/Now I got your honey all over my tummy/honey bee is heaven, 24/7." And on "Jailhouse Tears," Williams trades lines with Elvis Costello on what may be the most memorable country duet since Johnny and June went to "Jackson": "I just went to the corner to get a cold six pack," EC offers an an alibi. "You're a drunk, you're a stoner, you never came back, " LW retorts. Costello: "I used to be a uer, now I'm outta stuff." Williams, "You're a three time loser, you're all fucked up."
Working with a core ofmusicians mainly from her road band, Williams has never rocked harder, never been bluesier/rootsier, never been more vulnerable and never had more fun. The title track, reportedly inspired by serial doper Pete Doherty, is a stern but not hectoring finger-wag at talent squandered, and "Wishes Were Horses" alludes to unnamed deeds requiring an apology. And then there's the album closer, a non-ironic, faithful cover of AC/DC's "Long Way to the Top." But mostly, Lucinda Williams just wants to spread the good news. "I've been so blessed since our paths have crossed/That's why I'm crying tears of joy," she sings. After that last record, only a meanie would begrudge her.