After taking six years to release her 1998 album, "Car Wheels on a Gravel Road," Lucinda Williams has become a surprisingly regular recording artist, with two more studio albums and this live double-disc set since then. The focus here is her last album, "World Without Tears," a beautiful, somber recording.
Throughout this set from San Francisco, Williams' voice moves from calm and plaintive to angry - even downright enraged. The set starts off with "Ventura," a gorgeous, mournful song, full of steel guitar and raw, throbbing isolation. The energy steps up with the electric guitar-driven "Out of Touch," where Williams laments her detachment from her fellow human. On the upbeat funky "Sweet Side, " the singer has finally managed to find someone, but he's damaged goods. Williams is at her angry best on "Change the Locks," snarling, "I changed the kind of caaaaaaar I drive."
The second disc begins with "I Lost It," a bright, bouncy tune, in which Williams is looking for something - or someone - lost. "Pineola" perfectly captures the feeling of detachment accompanied by sudden death - it sounds like the singer's just floating above it all when Williams sings, "I think I must've picked up a handful of dust and let it fall over his grave." On the funky "Joy," Williams switches over to fury as she growls, "You took my joooooyyyy; I want it back." Then she's suddenly sultry on "Essence" when she coos, "Baby, sweet baby, I wanna feel your breath," backed only by a lightly tapping cymbal.
Williams is backed by a fantastic live band, but the focus here is always on the songs of the woman front and center, and her raw, affecting voice. Lucinda Williams is a treasure, and this set represents a wonderful look back at some of the absolute best music recorded over the last few years.