If you don't already know, Lucinda Williams is one of the most sincere and honest American songwriters around. She's got a hell of a unique voice and she sings with so much conviction and truth you wanna believe every one of her words. Her latest Blessed is a much more focused album than 2008's Little Honey. This time she moves away from her usual songs about bad break-ups and unrequited love and tackles other stuff she normally doesn't do; both light and heavy.
The album opens with mid-tempo rocker Buttercup, which has a similar rhythm to her classic Change The Locks. It's one of those great 'good riddance' relationship songs of hers that sorta makes you feel good 'bout yourself. And in contrast, the following laid-back I Don't Know How You're Livin' has her lamenting the absence of a past love. She also sings about suicide in Seeing Black, as she relentlessly probes hard-hitting questions to the 'victim' (in this case Vic Chesnutt), accompanied by a blistering guitar solo from Elvis Costello; seriously I didn't know he could play that well. Another guest musician is Matthew Sweet, who helps contributes vocals on some songs, including the gorgeous Copenhagen, in which she describes a friend's death in the most poetic way possible.
Soldier's Song is well-written as it is devastating; Lucinda alternates verses between a soldier's traumatic experience on the battlefield and his wife and child living peacefully at home. The title song, Blessed, is one of my favorite cuts. With only two basic chords throughout, it starts out slow and mellow and then rises into a rousing alt-country rocker. The lyrics are real thought-provoking too, giving the listener a new perspective towards people usually shunned by society. Another great song is Convince Me, which has a nice R&B/Soul flavor to it.
Musically, you can expect more or less the same from Lucinda, especially if you're familiar with West and Essence. The deluxe edition includes a second disc of kitchen demos of all the songs in the same sequence; perfect for listening to alone in the dark with a glass of wine. I think those pictures of people from all different walks of life found in the album best explains its whole theme. It's been done before, but still relays a very powerful message through its simplicity. Blessed is highly recommended for anyone who likes their albums covering a whole range of emotions.