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Album Review

Between her well-documented determination to retail full control of her music and the plain-spoken willfulness of her best-known songs, Lucinda Williams is practically the working definition of a strong woman you do not want to mess with, but she reveals a very different side of her musical personality on her sixth album, Essence. Subtle and often stark, Essence is an unusually quiet and frequently downbeat set that depicts a fragile emotional vulnerability which rarely makes its presence felt in Williams' music; there's an unadorned longing in songs like "Blue" and "Lonely Girls" that's new and deeply affecting, and the leaf-in-the-breeze quaver of Williams' voice on "I Envy the Wind" is as heart-rending as anything she's ever committed to tape. But while a blue mood dominates Essence, this isn't an album about the blue funk of heartbreak, but a chronicle of the search for transcendence over sorrow in our lives, as her characters look for a path out of isolation ("Out of Touch"), try to find answers through faith ("Get Right With God"), or reconcile love with the desires of the flesh ("Essence"). As a songwriter, Williams has long shown a knack for charting the human heart and mind with intelligence and economy, and Essence finds her at the peak of her form; the delicacy of this music does not speak of weakness, but of the passion and bravery it takes to bare one's soul. And while Williams has gained a certain infamy for her obsessive perfectionism in the studio, the quality of her work speaks for the wisdom of her decision-making process, and Essence proves how well she understands the art of recording; producing in collaboration with Charlie Sexton (Tom Tucker and Bo Ramsey also contributed), Essence sounds full and rich even in its quietest moments, and her sweet-and-sour voice blends with the arrangements with subtle perfection. Those hoping for another dose of the bluesy roots rock of Car Wheels on a Gravel Road may be disappointed, but if you want to take a deep and compelling look into the heart and soul of a major artist, then you owe it to yourself to hear Essence.

Customer Reviews

let me be the first.

Astounds me that there aren't scads of reviews for this truely beautiful collection of gems. I love everything about every song here as it takes you on a heart tugging journey through love, loss, hope, desire, sorrow and pain. In amongst the feast of emotion is the glitter of light that draws you to a conclusion that it does get better, it's not the end and you are stronger than you know. At a time when life was dark Essence lit up my world. Thank you Lucinda Williams.

Gorgeous

That cracked broken voice laden with tears...it is breathtaking...there isn't a song on here that isn't brillliant. I've said it before Lucinda WIlliams is a genius.

Lucinda's best

I love the rest, but Essence got me into her music. And :Blue" is absolutely her best song ever, and that is saying a lot.

Biography

Born: January 26, 1953 in Lake Charles, LA

Genre: Rock

Years Active: '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

The object of cultish adoration for years, singer/songwriter Lucinda Williams was universally hailed as a major talent by both critics and fellow musicians, but it took quite some time for her to parlay that respect into a measure of attention from the general public. Part of the reason was her legendary perfectionism: Williams released records only infrequently, often taking years to hone both the material and the recordings thereof. Plus, her early catalog was issued on smaller labels that agreed...
Full bio