Lucinda Williams: West 

Lucinda Williams may be one of the few people who could get people to sing along to a song called "Fancy Funeral." She opens with the line, "Some think a fancy funeral / Would be worth every cent," but ends with a different perspective: "So don't buy a fancy funeral / It's not worth it in the end / Goodbyes can still be beautiful / Without the money that you'll spend."

Williams' music has always been dark and introspective and West is no different. Williams wrote the songs on this album after her mother passed away in 2004. West, her first studio release since 2003, is dedicated to her mother's memory and features songs about losing, coping and growing following her mother's death.

This CD shows that Williams is "learning how to live," as she writes in another song. Even after losing one of the most important women in her life, she can still say, "I'll take the best of what you had to give / I'll make the most of what you left me with / I'm learning how to live."

"Come On" is a tribute to another loss--the end of a serious romantic relationship. In the very opening line, she sings, "Dude, I'm so over you," and builds on that sentiment in a way that could turn it into an anthem for the heartbroken.

In "Everything Has Changed," she sings, "I can't find my love anymore" and "I can't find my joy anywhere." It's a song dripping with sorrow but keeps listeners' attention with spare arrangements that allow the focus to be on the raw emotion in Williams' voice.

She looks ahead in "What If," asking what the world would be like if "the President wore pink," "the Pope chewed gum" and "children grew up happier." She also looks at the simplest of things, as in "Words," in which she sings, "They still remain my only companion / Loyal and true to the very end."

Williams' knack with words is evidenced by her three Grammy awards and recognition as "America's best songwriter" by Time magazine in 2002. West shows that she hasn't lost her touch in spite of her recent life changes.

--Curt Nichols

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