Lucinda Williams
Car Wheels On A Gravel Road


4.5
superb

Review

by DadKungFu USER (33 Reviews)
October 22nd, 2018 | 34 replies


Release Date: 1998 | Tracklist

Review Summary: The way you move/ is right in time/it's right in time with me

By all accounts, writing and recording Car Wheels On A Gravel Road was nothing less than excruciating. After recording what very nearly amounted to a full album’s worth of material in Texas, Lucinda, unsatisfied with what had been created thus far, scrapped everything, headed to Nashville and enlisted the help of Steve Earle, who was in the midst of a few years of lucidity before his drug problem would come back in full force. With E Street veteran Roy Bittan behind the helm Lucinda would claw her way through a writing and recording process that Steve would describe as “the least amount of fun I’ve had on a record”. This laborious process ended up burning at least one bridge for Williams; original producer Gurf Morlax reportedly refuses to speak to her to this day over those tumultuous sessions. But all the work and misery that went into Car Wheels ended up paying off in spades, not just in terms of financial and critical success, but in the sense of craftsmanship and personality that made the record an instant titan of the burgeoning alt-country scene.

Car Wheels is more than just a strong album, it’s also an intimate portrait of Lucinda, both as a singer and as a woman. Thematically, femininity runs like a thread throughout the thirteen tracks, a theme that Lucinda gives voice to with both sun-scorched grit and graceful sensuality. The sense of location that Williams evokes throughout is also an essential part of the album as a whole, offhand references to Nacgadoches, Greenville and Jackson rendering her tales of love and loss a sense of place and context. Her voice is the vehicle which gives her red-dirt dusted tales much of their power, in turns gutsy, vulnerable, brash and melancholy, weatherbeaten, yet still burning with passion and vitality. No less vital to the record is a lyrical style which is both simple in its execution, yet deeply evocative and moving, her highway snapshot lyrics seeming to freeze moments of heartache, love and longing in time, her lyrical portraits evoking the stark intimacy of the likes of Depression-era photographer Dorothea Lange.

All highway poetics aside, Williams’ voice sounds simply gorgeous when paired with the driving roots rhythms that make up the instrumentals. Throughout the album, Lucinda’s backing band deserves no less acclaim than Lucinda herself, drawing out and augmenting all the grit and fire that her voice conveys with a seamless amalgamation of roots-rock, blues, alternative and Texas country that feels at once timeless and original. It’s a sound that all too naturally compliments Lucinda’s voice, melding with her vocals on each track with assured ease, from the straight country-rock of the title track to the blazing roots and rhythm of Can’t Let Go to the blues drenched Still I Long For Your Kiss. The production, warm and earthy, let’s both the band and Lucinda shine in their own right, while allowing Lucinda’s vocals to take the main stage.

The painstaking labor and perfectionism that Williams poured into Car Wheels On A Gravel Road was already something of a hallmark for the woman who was releasing only her fifth album in twenty years and the second (and last) album she’d release in the 90s. That dedication to perfection made her releases a fairly rare occasion, but it also made her one of the most consistently wonderful americana artists ever to record. Car Wheels is probably the greatest result of that work ethic, a high point in Lucinda’s career that she would eventually have bittersweet feelings for, due the tensions and lost friendship the stress of recording the album created. The album itself remains a testament to that dedication however, a searing, open and beautifully honest chronicle of lovers and piners, bastards and boozehounds and all the joy and misery they bring into the world. Any ranking of great country/Americana records would be woefully incomplete without this gem.



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user ratings (94)
4.1
excellent

Comments:Add a Comment 
DadKungFu
October 22nd 2018


799 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Alright, a week into this quixotic endeavor and still going strong.

danielcardoso
October 22nd 2018


11770 Comments


Boney-core.

Divaman
October 22nd 2018


4948 Comments


Nice one.

Digging: Psychotic Waltz - The God-Shaped Void

theBoneyKing
October 22nd 2018


18581 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0 | Sound Off

Well fuck

Been meaning to review this for years but I’m just glad it finally has a review, hits all the right points too (even if my review would be more gushy - this is a top 5 album of all time for me). Another pos dude, love you for this series!

DadKungFu
October 22nd 2018


799 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Man I know the feeling when you've been planning on a review forever and some dbag swoops in out of the blue. Glad you liked it

theBoneyKing
October 22nd 2018


18581 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0 | Sound Off

Haha, didn’t mean to come off as bitter if I did, I’m genuinely grateful you’ve done this - now I have somewhere to post lyric comments ;-P

DadKungFu
October 22nd 2018


799 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Man definitely, so many quotable moments on this. I did like 5 different lyrics for the summary before I went with the most obvious one

mynameischan
Staff Reviewer
October 22nd 2018


1403 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

amazing album



her voice has really not held up, at least to my ears. i could barely get through her last few albums

SandwichBubble
October 22nd 2018


11229 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Nice. Never big on this gal, but this is pretty good

blastOFFitsPARTYtime
October 22nd 2018


1963 Comments


One of the few albums I still have on CD

ConorIsNotHere
October 22nd 2018


1326 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Such a brilliantly consistent record, didn't know about history of the album tho. =O



Hard pos to the review

Atari
Staff Reviewer
October 22nd 2018


25627 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

nice to see a review for this



I'll have to check out several other albums from your country series as well

Digging: Screeching Weasel - Boogadaboogadaboogada!

Zorg
October 26th 2018


412 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Finally, someone wrote a review for this. Perfect album. Williams is true blue on this.

theBoneyKing
October 26th 2018


18581 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0 | Sound Off

Glad to see other people loving this album! Yeah this is one of the most note-perfect things ever released. Imo the rest of her discog is still excellent but this is definitely the peak - and what a peak it is! This is one of those albums where if you don't like it at least a little or can't at least appreciate the craft, I have to seriously question your taste.

theBoneyKing
November 1st 2018


18581 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0 | Sound Off

Did an angel

Whisper in your ears

Hold you close

And take away your fears

In those long, last moments?


Dylan620
February 20th 2020


5237 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

^came here to post those exact same lyrics

Digging: Steely Dan - Pretzel Logic

mynameischan
Staff Reviewer
February 20th 2020


1403 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

probably should 5 this



i could listen to "jackson" forever

DadKungFu
February 20th 2020


799 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Listening to Jackson and driving through northern Maine in the sunset is one of my favorite musical memories.

theBoneyKing
February 20th 2020


18581 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0 | Sound Off

“Jackson” is perfection yeah. Album is one of the 5iest 5s that ever did 5.

Lucman
March 14th 2020


3956 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0 | Sound Off

I've listened to this 5 times today and every time it gets better. Best country album I've heard yet. I love this.

Digging: Pure Reason Revolution - Eupnea



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