Proof of lyrical brilliance

Proof of lyrical brilliance

Alternative country singer Lucinda Williams' Blessed is her 10th studio album. She deals with tough themes with a new maturity, but time hasn't changed her signature brooding tone.

The album opens on a typically wry note with Buttercup, an attack on an ex. This first single features electric guitar, the rough-edged sound working well against Williams' raw vocals.

Repetitive, poetic lyrics give the listener a lot to mull over. One example is Williams' first attempt to write about war, Soldier's Song. Written from a soldier's point of view, the gentle melody belies the contrast between a war zone and family life: "Bodies in a muddy ditch/ Baby's got supper to fix".

The focus on deeper themes is welcome, but it's sometimes overly intense. The pace sometimes picks up, but not the mood: enhanced by a wild guitar solo by Elvis Costello, driven number Seeing Black deals with the death of fellow singer-songwriter Vic Chesnutt.

The best track is another bittersweet collaboration with Costello, the Grammy-nominated Kiss Like You Kiss. The waltz-time ballad from the series True Blood dwells on the experiences that will "never" be so good again, all in Williams' intimate crooning.

A consistently bleak soundscape makes this album difficult to listen through in one go, but Blessed is a perfect argument for the brilliance of Williams' lyrics and vocals.

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