Down Where the Spirit Meets the Bone by Lucinda Williams (Album of the Week)

20140927_lucinda-williams-down-where-spirit-meets-bone_91Album: Down Where the Spirit Meets the Bone

Artist: Lucinda William

Year: 2014

About: 2 albums; 20 songs; 1 hour and 44 minutes

Choice: DJR Blogging

Dan started our listening year with a hefty one! Lucinda WIlliams’  Down Where the Spirit Meets the Bone comes in at a walloping 1 hour and 44 minutes of listening. That is twenty songs. For me, trying to listen to this during my work commute would take more than 5 trips to get through it. I have done a fair share of out-of-the- car listening of this too, but I can’t say that I have given the full albums the listens that I usually do, but … I think that is not a problem with this selection. On DJR Blogging, Dan also had no problem recognizing the gifts this album brings. He pays a little more attention to the music than I did, but we both came to the conclusion that this album wins.

For me, this selection is poetry. Listening to this album is a ride through songs of experience. It is in her voice, but especially, it is in her words. Each track is a lesson. One interview with Lucinda noted that she started writing the songs that are on these albums when her mother died in 2004. It really feels like a life being laid out as you make your way through each of these songs.

Like blues with its distinctive format, there is a format to many of the songs on this listen. This can make some songs sound similar to each other. There is her voice with that slurry quality that does not change in tenor too much. There are familiar guitar lines. The format for delivery may not have a great deal of variety, but the songs each stand on their own. For the rest of this review, I am going to be a little lyric heavy, but I hope that conveys what the album brought to me.

The first song on the album, Compassion, is an adaptation of a poem written by her father. It is really a prayer of humanity (note: it made me think of the Prayer of St. Francis: Lord, make me an instrument of your peace). Mr. Williams prayer asks:

For everyone you listen to

Have compassion

Even if they don’t want it

What seems cynicism

Is always a sign

Always a sign

Always a sign

Always a sign of things no ears have heard

Always a sign of things no eyes have seen

You do not know

What wars are going on down there

Where the spirit meets the bone

After she gets the praying out of the way, the Lucinda Williams’ down-and-dirty kicks in. The eighteen songs that she penned are a hodgepodge of regret but survival,experience, loss, love, and the ability to still see with clear eyes and full heart. When she is in trouble she knows it. When she survives, she talks about it. When she is angry she lets you know – heart on her sleeve – sometimes beating strong; sometimes quiet.

Such lyrics she can write! In each song, you can pick out a line that just makes you bow to her. East Side of Town is a wicked take down of someone who says they want to get real, but she thinks they don’t have any idea what real is:

You got your ideas and your visions,

And you say you sympathise

You look but you don’t listen,

There’s no empathy in your eyes

You make deals and promises, and everybody bows down

And now you wanna come shake my hand

Whoever she is referring to – zowie! She got real!

If you want a grittier version of “What a Wonderful World,” she gives that gift in When I Look at the World:

I’ve been out of luck

I’ve been talked about

I’ve been locked up

I’ve been shut out

I’ve had some bad dreams

And then feel the regret

I’ve made a mess of things

And been a total wreck

I’ve been disrespected

and taken for a ride

I’ve been rejected

and had my patience tried

But then I look at the world

in all its glory

I look at the world

And it’s a different story

each time I look at the world

Dan started the year out strong with this choice. I think anyone taking time with these songs will find something that speaks to how you have once felt, or what you wanted to say to someone. That she can put that to some excellent music, is what makes her Lucinda Williams. (And, I love the cover art!)

Next Up: Justin Towne Earl’s Absent Fathers (to be released Tuesday, January 13)


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