Excerpted from the magazine for Billboard.com.

For the longest time, it seemed that "prolific" was definitely not a word one could associate with alt-country songstress Lucinda Williams. Prior to the release of her exquisite 1998 breakthrough, "Car Wheels on a Gravel Road," she had issued only three albums in some 19 years.

Yet since "Car Wheels" -- which itself was six years in the making -- one cannot deny that she is on a roll, having issued her second album in two years, "World Without Tears" -- the follow-up to the celebrated 2001 set "Essence" -- April 8 on Lost Highway.

But, with a laugh, she reminds us that appearances can be deceiving. "I'm not really on a roll," she says. "I just got lucky."

Williams says luck also deserves the credit for the fact that-after critics and fans expressed some disappointment at the more sedate feel of "Essence" -- this album includes some of her most rockin' material to date, most notably the brilliant Paul Westerberg tribute "Real Live Bleeding Fingers and Broken Guitar Strings."

Just as striking are such loneliness-drenched ballads as lead cut "Fruits of My Labor," on which she delivers the lines, "Baby, I remember all the things we did/When we slept together/In the blue behind your eyelids."

Be it during a ballad or rocker, the keen ear will likely detect a different vibe ringing throughout the album, as "World Without Tears," which debuted at No. 18 on The Billboard 200, is Williams' first album recorded completely live.

The approach works wonderfully, lending more bite to the rollicking uptempo material and more soul and earthiness to the slower, country-leaning numbers. ost Highway senior VP of A&R and artist development Frank Callari says says "World Without Tears" sees Williams rising to a new level as a professional and as a songwriter.

It's a sentiment echoed by Williams' father, poet Miller Williams. For years, when Lucinda has nearly finished the lyrics for her songs, she has sent them to Miller for advice and comments -- she has considered it a kind of apprenticeship. For the first time, he had absolutely no edits or suggestions, Lucinda proudly relays. "It blew my mind, because lemme tell ya, my dad, if he had something to say, he would say it.

"He said, 'I think this is the closest thing to poetry that you've ever done,' which is quite a compliment. So I said, 'Does that mean I graduated? He said, 'Yeah, I guess so.'"

Excerpted from the April 26, 2003, issue of Billboard. The full original text of the article is available in the Billboard.com Premium Services section.

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