2007 will bring the 30th anniversary of my first rock concert (Kiss, December 2, 1977 – Metropolitan Sports Center). In honor of that momentous event I have decided to use this blog to review my 30 best loved albums. They will not be in any order or progression but I will try to review them musically and why they mean so much to me. I’ll also note if they made the Definitive 200 List. Here's number 13 on the list:
13. Lucinda Williams - Car Wheels on a Gravel Road (1998)
After spending the previous decade releasing spare country and folk albums, Lucinda Williams spent most of the 1990’s recording and re-recording one of the greatest country albums released by a female artist. Gone was the lone voice and guitar of her previous albums and in its place was a lush mixture of guitar, mandolin, accordian, dobro, piano, and electric guitar. The album is a showcase of Williams’ fine song-writing skills and emotive voice that can go from a growl to a purr in the blink of a song. It is an album that takes its sensibility not only from Nashville (country), but also from New Orleans (Zydeco), Chicago (Blues), and Los Angeles (Rock and Roll).
The album covers your typical country fare of love gained, hearts broken, and life that is not smooth like a highway but bumpy and worn down like a gravel road. From the album’s first line - "Not a day goes by I don’t think about you" - we are introduced to Williams’ reminences about lost loved. Highlights for me include the opening song, Right in Time, which is about a woman who literally aches carnally for her man; Drunken Angel, a song about/for Gram Parsons; Lake Charles, (love lost); Greenville (saying goodbye to a lover who is a drunken lout); and Jackson (thinking about a lover as she drives across the south).
I Lost It is a standout as a country-rocker about falling in love but worried about getting your heart broke. The second verse is classic:
I just wanna live the life I please
I don't want no enemies
I don't want nothin if I have to fake it
Never take nothin don't belong to me
Everything's paid for nothing’s free
If I give you my heart
Will you promise not to break it?
If we could all standards like that.
This album is southern, but Williams isn’t getting her Lynyrd Skynyrd on. It’s the south of cotton picking, humid nights, rutted roads, and beer guzzlin’ good ol boys who done their woman wrong. Lucinda Williams imbibes these songs with her voice, making them real -- your heart literally goes out to her and you curse the men who have burned her in the past. Top to bottom there isn’t a fill-in song or throw away line on the entire album and it’s constantly being played on my I-pod or CD player. And for that, Car Wheels on a Gravel Road is one of my 30 best loved albums.
Place on the Definitive 200: Not on the List!