Car Wheels on a Gravel Road

Car Wheels on a Gravel Road

4.7 8
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 obsessiveSee more details below

Overview

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 - Steve Huey
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.

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Product Details

Release Date:
06/30/1998
Label:
Mercury
UPC:
0731455833829
catalogNumber:
558338
Rank:
4992

Tracks

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Album Credits

Performance Credits

Lucinda Williams   Primary Artist,Acoustic Guitar,Dobro,Vocals
Emmylou Harris   Vocals,Vocal Harmony
Ray Kennedy   12-string Guitar
Jim Lauderdale   Vocals,Vocal Harmony
Steve Earle   Acoustic Guitar,Harmonica,Guitar (Resonator),Vocal Harmony
Charlie Sexton   Dobro,Guitar,Electric Guitar
Roy Bittan   Organ,Accordion,Hammond Organ
John Ciambotti   Bass Guitar
Greg Leisz   Mandolin,12-string Guitar
Donald Lindley   Percussion,Drums
Gurf Morlix   Guitar,Electric Guitar,12-string Guitar,Slide Guitar
Buddy Miller   Acoustic Guitar,Electric Guitar,Mando-Guitar,Vocal Harmony
Bo Ramsey   Electric Guitar,Slide Guitar
Johnny Lee Schell   Dobro,Electric Guitar,Slide Guitar
Michael Smotherman   Hammond Organ

Technical Credits

Lucinda Williams   Producer
Roy Bittan   Producer,Engineer
Steve Churchyard   Engineer
Ed Thacker   Engineer
Margery Greenspan   Artwork
Twangtrust   Producer

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