Since the Grammy Award-winning Car Wheels on a Gravel Road and the quieter but still powerful Essence, Lucinda Williams has been in a can-do-no-wrong state of mind.

Since the Grammy Award-winning Car Wheels on a Gravel Road and the quieter but still powerful Essence, Lucinda Williams has been in a can-do-no-wrong state of mind. On her second Lost Highway release, she is simply magnificent, conjuring narcotic vegetation on "Fruits of My Labor," amateur psychoanalysis on "Sweet Side," and then grating dissonance on the sexually appreciative "Righteously." When she wants to, Williams owns female country rock (the brilliant homage "Real Live Bleeding Fingers and Broken Guitar Strings"), and she offers hard-earned perspective on "People Talkin.' " As a songwriter, Williams has few peers and is routinely stunning here, alternating between raw exposure ("Those Three Days") and tender subtlety ("Overtime"). Regardless of one's politics, the understated beauty of the title cut could easily be a theme song for our current troubled times, and Williams' world-weary delivery works wonders.—RW

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