Car Wheels on a Gravel Road

Car Wheels on a Gravel Road

by Lucinda Williams

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Lucinda Williams's music reclaims the gritty soul of Southern living from the hardening gloss of Sunbelt culture. Car Wheels on a Gravel Road was six infamous years in the making, as the singer-songwriter repeatedly rerecorded the sessions (to the exasperation of producers Steve Earle and Roy Bittan). The implications are somewhat unnerving: Only with obsessive…  See more details below


Lucinda Williams's music reclaims the gritty soul of Southern living from the hardening gloss of Sunbelt culture. Car Wheels on a Gravel Road was six infamous years in the making, as the singer-songwriter repeatedly rerecorded the sessions (to the exasperation of producers Steve Earle and Roy Bittan). The implications are somewhat unnerving: Only with obsessive perfectionism (a phrase that is not a redundancy here) can an honest voice emerge. But such perils are softened by the effect; Williams's songs speak with a rare directness, a visceral clarity. Despite instrumental accents from the likes of a Dobro and a mandolin, the music is bluesier than your usual No Depression recording, and it's a good match for the spunk in Williams's voice. This 1998 recording topped many critics' "best of" lists and is regarded as a better successor to Williams's 1988 classic, Lucinda Williams, than her 1992 release Sweet Old World. Ultimately, Williams is searching for higher truths, and this release suggests that although we live in desperately fettered times, grim perseverance will lead to great beauty and revelation.

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Editorial Reviews

All Music Guide
It isn't surprising that Lucinda Williams' level of craft takes time to assemble, but the six-year wait between Sweet Old World and its 1998 follow-up, Car Wheels on a Gravel Road, still raised eyebrows. The delay stemmed both from label difficulties and Williams' meticulous perfectionism, the latter reportedly over a too-produced sound and her own vocals. Listening to the record, one can understand why both might have concerned Williams. Car Wheels is far and away her most produced album to date, which is something of a mixed blessing. Its surfaces are clean and contemporary, with something in the timbres of the instruments (especially the drums) sounding extremely typical of a late-'90s major-label roots rock album. While that might subtly alter the timeless qualities of Williams' writing, there's also no denying that her sound is punchier and livelier. The production also throws Williams' idiosyncratic voice into sharp relief, to the point where it's noticeably separate from the band. As a result, every inflection and slight tonal alteration is captured, and it would hardly be surprising if Williams did obsess over those small details. But whether or not you miss the earthiness of Car Wheels' predecessors, it's ultimately the material that matters, and Williams' songwriting is as captivating as ever. Intentionally or not, the album's common thread seems to be its strongly grounded sense of place -- specifically, the Deep South, conveyed through images and numerous references to specific towns. Many songs are set, in some way, in the middle or aftermath of not-quite-resolved love affairs, as Williams meditates on the complexities of human passion. Even her simplest songs have more going on under the surface than their poetic structures might indicate. In the end, Car Wheels on a Gravel Road is Williams' third straight winner; although she might not be the most prolific songwriter of the '90s, she's certainly one of the most brilliant. [In 2006, Mercury released a remastered "deluxe edition" of Car Wheels on a Gravel Road, which expanded the album to a two-disc set. Disc one features the complete original album, sounding less harsh and more sonically rounded in its new form, accompanied by three bonus tracks. "Down the Road Blues" and "Out of Touch" were recorded during the first sessions for Car Wheels that Williams later decided to scrap, and while both cuts are fine, they suggest Williams did the right thing when she switched producers. The third bonus cut is an early version of "Still I Long for Your Kiss" that originally appeared on the soundtrack album for the film The Horse Whisperer. Disc two contains a 13-song live show Williams and her road band recorded in Philadelphia for broadcast on WXPN-FM in the summer of 1998. While it takes Williams a few songs to find her footing and the version of "Car Wheels on a Gravel Road" doesn't quite click, she and her band hit a powerful groove by the end of the set, and the last two songs, "Changed the Locks" and " Joy," with Williams growling with switchblade passion and guitarists Bo Ramsey and Kenny Vaughn following suit, are brilliant. While casual followers of Williams' work will be served well by the original edition of the album, serious fans will want to pick this up if only to check out the high points of the live disc.] ~ Steve Huey & Mark Deming

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Product Details

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Disc 1

  1. Right in Time
  2. Car Wheels on a Gravel Road
  3. 2 Kool 2 Be 4-Gotten
  4. Drunken Angel
  5. Concrete and Barbed Wire
  6. Lake Charles
  7. Can't Let Go
  8. I Lost It
  9. Metal Firecracker
  10. Greenville
  11. Still I Long for Your Kiss
  12. Joy
  13. Jackson
  14. Down the Big Road Blues
  15. Out of Touch
  16. Still I Long for Your Kiss

Disc 2

  1. Pineola
  2. Something About What Happens When We Talk
  3. Car Wheels on a Gravel Road
  4. Metal Firecracker
  5. Right in Time
  6. Drunken Angel
  7. Greenville
  8. Still I Long for Your Kiss
  9. 2 Kool 2 Be 4-Gotten
  10. Can't Let Go
  11. Hot Blood
  12. Change the Locks
  13. Joy

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Album Credits

Performance Credits

Lucinda Williams   Primary Artist,Acoustic Guitar,Dobro,Vocals
Emmylou Harris   Vocals,Vocal Harmony
Ray Kennedy   Guitar (12 String Electric)
Jim Lauderdale   Vocals,Vocal Harmony
Steve Earle   Acoustic Guitar,Harmonica
Charlie Sexton   Dobro,Electric Guitar,Soloist
Ian McLagan   Organ
Roy Bittan   Organ,Accordion,Hammond Organ
Fran Breen   Drums
John Ciambotti   Bass,Bass Guitar
Gene Elders   Fiddle
Kenny Greenberg   Acoustic Guitar
Greg Leisz   Mandolin,Guitar (12 String Electric)
Donald Lindley   Percussion,Drums
Gurf Morlix   Guitar,Electric Guitar,Slide Guitar,Guitar (12 String Electric),Vocal Harmony
Buddy Miller   Acoustic Guitar,Electric Guitar,Mando-Guitar,Vocal Harmony
Bo Ramsey   Dobro,Electric Guitar,Slide Guitar
Johnny Lee Schell   Electric Guitar,Slide Guitar,Soloist
Michael Smotherman   Hammond Organ,Hammond B3
Harry Stinson   Drums,Background Vocals
Kenny Vaughan   Guitar
Kenny Vaughn   Guitar
Richard Price   Bass Guitar
Richard "Hombre" Price   Dobro

Technical Credits

Lucinda Williams   Composer,Producer,Audio Production
Roy Bittan   Producer,Engineer,Audio Production
Tony Brown   Producer
Steve Churchyard   Engineer
Duane Jarvis   Composer
Ed Thacker   Engineer
Randy Weeks   Composer
Margery Greenspan   Art Direction
Sean McClintock   Engineer
Birney Imes   Cover Photo
Mattie Delaney   Composer
Twangtrust   Producer,Audio Production
Scott Schinder   Liner Notes

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