20 Signs of Life From 2003

18. Lucinda Williams - World Without Tears

Music Features Lucinda Williams
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Sweet, sad harmonica and delicate tremelo guitar echoing from a rotating speaker, the soft sound of brushes against a snare and then… that voice. God, that beautiful aching drawl that lets you know—if you’re feeling bad, if you’re hurting, if you’ve got nowhere else to go—don’t worry, I’ve been there, too. Lucinda Williams' music—simple but profound. Painful but cathartic. Heartbreaking and full of life. It’s hard enough to imagine someone can feel this much, but its even harder to imagine someone can convey this intensity of feeling simply by stepping up to a microphone and letting go.

“She’s somebody I really admire,” says friend and fellow musician Matthew Ryan. “Lucinda has the ability to inhabit a real innocent heartache. It’s genuine. She’s that vulnerable. She’s that angry. She’s all the things she appears to be. And she’s smart, you know? I mean she’s super intelligent. She’s an open wound in some ways…”

Williams' latest, World Without Tears—with earnest, image-laden lyrics that will knock you over; one of the best roots song titles ever (“Real Live Bleeding Fingers and Broken Guitar Strings”); an energetic live-in-the-studio feel (suggested by co-producer Mark Howard); some seriously talented studio support from Doug Pettibone (guitar, harmonies), Jim Christie (drums, organ) and Taras Prodaniuk (bass, harmonies); and material approaching her acclaimed Car Wheels on a Gravel Road, William’s proves she hasn’t stopped making essential albums.

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