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Thursday, September 25, 2014

ROUTES & BRANCHES
featuring the very best of americana, alt.country and roots music
September 20, 2014
Scott Foley

The songs that "bookend" Lucinda Williams' new Down Where the Spirit Meets the Bone are telling.  Her 10th studio album since 1979's Ramblin' On My Mind launches with "Compassion", a poem from her father, Miller Williams, adapted by daughter Lucinda.  Never a traditionally strong singer, Williams sounds unusually worn and tired:  "You do not know what wars are going on / Down there where the spirit meets the bone".  Nobody has even accused Lucinda Williams of being a pollyanna, and most of the tunes on Disc 1 unspool from this darkness.  "You're the saddest story that's ever been told" she sings on the relatively upbeat "Burning Bridges".  It's not until the sweet Memphis country-soul of "Stand Right By Each Other" that she allows a degree of light to shine through. Like her poet father, Williams' lyrics are plainspoken.  They frequently apply the blues practice of repetition, sometimes generating a mantra-like effect. 

Especially in her blues mode, Lucinda Williams is never in a hurry to reach the far side of a song.  Disc 2 drawls to a halt with a beautifully languid 10 minute take on the late J.J. Cale's signature song, "Magnolia".  While it's far from a pick-me-up, Williams is at her best during such country-soul moments.  Her leathered voice folds perfectly into the so-sad country of "It's Gonna Rain", or Disc 2's "This Old Heartache", which might not sound out of place on '92's Sweet Old World.  Lyrically and musically, Down Where the Spirit Meets the Bone achieves its zenith with "Temporary Nature (of Any Precious Thing)".  The song thrills at the point where Memphis meets Austin and Nashville:  "Love can never, never live / Without the pain, the pain of loss."  As listeners, sad music is never depressing when it's well made. 

Next Episode, I'll be joined in studio by Tarnation's Andy D.  This time, the "D" stands for "donation", as KRFC launches fearlessly into our Fall 2014 Membership Drive.  If you're a follower of this blog, or a regular listener to R&B, please step forward and let your appreciation be heard. Call 970-221-5075, or pledge online like the kids do at krfcfm.org. 

*  Carbon Leaf, "One Prairie Outpost"  Indian Summer Revisited  (Constant Ivy, 14)  D
*  Sons of Bill, "Big Unknown"  Love & Logic  (Thirty Tigers, 14)
*  Fire Mountain, "Factory Line"  All Dies Down  (This is Amer Music, 14)
*  Robert Plant, "Little Maggie"  Lullaby and ... the Ceaseless Roar  (Nonesuch, 14)  D
*  Rachel Brooke, "Mean Kind of Blues"  Down in the Barnyard  (Self, 11)
*  Cahalen Morrison & Country Hammer, "Hobbled & Grazing"  Flower of Muscle Shoals  (Free Dirt, 14)
*  Cory Branan, "You Make Me"  No Hit Wonder  (Bloodshot, 14)
*  Reed Foehl, "Steal Away"  Lost In the West  (NeverFoehl, 14)  C
*  Dave Alvin & Syd Straw, "What Am I Worth"  King of California  (Hightone, 94)
*  David Mayfield, "In Your Eyes"  Strangers  (Compass, 14)
^  Lucinda Williams, "Protection"  Down Where the Spirit Meets the Bone  (Hwy 20, 14)
*  Lucinda Williams, "This Old Heartache"  Down Where the Spirit Meets the Bone   (Hwy 20, 14)
*  Luke Winslow-King, "Crystal Water Springs"  Everlasting Arms  (Bloodshot, 14)
*  Ryan Adams, "Trouble"  Ryan Adams  (PaxAm, 14)
*  Ryan Adams, "Jacksonville"  Jacksonville  (PaxAm, 14)  D
*  Justin Townes Earle, "Wanna Be a Stranger"  Single Mothers  (Vagrant, 14)
*  Benjamin Booker, "Slow Coming"  Benjamin Booker  (ATO, 14)
*  Drew Kennedy, "Poet at 33 (live)"  Sad Songs Happily Played  (Self, 14)
*  Micky & the Motorcars, "Sister Lost Soul"  Hearts From Above  (Self, 14)
*  Fauntleroys, "Take You Far Away"  Below the Pink Pony  (Plowboy, 14)
*  NQ Arbuckle, "Back to Earth"  The Future Happens Anyway  (Six Shooter, 14)
*  Ronnie Fauss w/Rhett Miller, "Eighteen Wheels"  Built to Break  (New West, 14)
*  Jason Isbell, "Cover Me Up"  Southeastern  (12th St, 13)
*  Sturgill Simpson, "Panbowl"  Metamodern Sounds in Country Music  (High Top Mt, 14)
*  Hard Working Americans w/Rosanne Cash, "Come From the Heart"  First Waltz  (Melvin, 14)
*  Old Crow Medicine Show, "Sweet Home"  Remedy  (ATO, 14)
*  Greensky Bluegrass, "Forget Everything"  If Sorrows Swim  (Thirty Tigers, 14)

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