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Essence
     

Essence

4.6 3
by Lucinda Williams
 
With Essence, Lucinda Williams delivers a complete aesthetic triumph -- bigger in theme, more contemplative in mood, and more personal and spiritual in its lyric concerns than her 1998 Grammy-winning commercial breakthrough, Car Wheels on a Gravel Road. The figure she presents here is that of a woman cut loose

Overview

With Essence, Lucinda Williams delivers a complete aesthetic triumph -- bigger in theme, more contemplative in mood, and more personal and spiritual in its lyric concerns than her 1998 Grammy-winning commercial breakthrough, Car Wheels on a Gravel Road. The figure she presents here is that of a woman cut loose from her moorings, sifting for moments of grace and tenderness in a life only briefly touched by love and salvation. The old ennui has set in, and the upshot is a country-tinged folk song cycle whose gentle, lilting rhythms and quiet, acoustic arrangements carry a ton of emotional weight, which Williams accentuates with her whispered, fragile vocals. She heightens each song's spiritual quest by juxtaposing biblical allusions -- Ruth and Pontius Pilate are referenced in the terse, slow-boiling album closer, "Broken Butterflies," and "Get Right with God" grapples with her desire to face her maker in the right frame of mind -- against blunt, conversational texts, such as "So go to confession/Whatever gets you through/You can count your blessings/I'll just count on blue" ("Blue"). Despite the momentary relief offered by the funky, jazzy title song, Essence isn't a cry, it's a scream -- directed at shiftless lovers and an unforgiving God. Williams, at the very peak of her artistry, dares us to enter for closer examination, then leaves us guessing. Great stuff.

Editorial Reviews

All Music Guide - Mark Deming
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.

Product Details

Release Date:
06/05/2001
Label:
Lost Highway
UPC:
0008817019727
catalogNumber:
170197
Rank:
15862

Tracks

Album Credits

Performance Credits

Lucinda Williams   Primary Artist,Acoustic Guitar,Electric Guitar,Guitar (Resonator)
Jim Lauderdale   Vocals,Background Vocals,Vocal Harmony
Charlie Sexton   Acoustic Guitar,Percussion,Piano,Drums,Electric Guitar,Rhythm Guitar,Vocals,Background Vocals,12-string Guitar,Slide Guitar,Fuzz Bass,Harmony,Hand Drums,Guitar Loops,Guitar (Tremolo),Guitar (12 String Acoustic),Vocal Harmony
Jim Keltner   Percussion,Drums
Tony Garnier   Bass,Acoustic Bass
Gary Louris   Background Vocals
David Mansfield   Violin,Viola
Bo Ramsey   Electric Guitar,Slide Guitar
Joy Lynn White   Background Vocals,Vocal Harmony
Reese Wynans   Organ,Hammond Organ
Ryan Adams   Tremolo,Guitar (Tremolo)

Technical Credits

Charlie Sexton   Producer
Lucinda Williams   Producer
Bo Ramsey   Producer
Tom Tucker   Producer,Engineer

Customer Reviews

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Essence 4.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Lucinda once again cuts an album that defies categorization - rock, folk, blues? I don't know what to call it, so I'll just stick with ''excellent'' and ''superb''. Essence is 100% pure Lucinda angst. And I love it. It doesn't have the range that Car Wheels does, but than again she spent 6 years on that album. She wrote all the songs on Essence in only 6 weeks. In Lucinda time, that's nothing! So it's no wonder all the songs sound like they're from the same place inside this great song-writer. That same angst-ridden place. Don't get me wrong though, this album is fantastic. And I'm very happy I didn't have to wait 6 years before she put it out :)
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago