In the ever-crowded field of women swinging acoustic guitars and warbling tales of love and empowerment, West is valiantly striving to dig a little deeper.

In the ever-crowded field of women swinging acoustic guitars and warbling tales of love and empowerment, West is valiantly striving to dig a little deeper. On Holy Road—which painstakingly chronicles a period of self-discovery and travel in the artist's life —she reveals a prickly lyrical hand that isn't always keen on sentimentality or melancholy emotions. Rather, she offers defiant, brutally honest prose that hammers the point that life isn't always pretty, nor do scenarios often have tidy solutions. She drives her point home with lean, torch'n'twang instrumentation and vocals that are by turns richly dark and abrasive. Despite flickering moments of self-indulgence, Holy Road is a strong testament to the power of living life fully—and writing it all down.—LF