MTV Video Music Awards

Essence

Lucinda Williams' debut on Lost Highway and first release since her 1998 breakthrough Car Wheels on a Gravel Road is an introspective affair that mixes religious imagery and drug references in equal d

Lucinda Williams' debut on Lost Highway and first release since her 1998 breakthrough Car Wheels on a Gravel Road is an introspective affair that mixes religious imagery and drug references in equal doses. Subtlety is one thing, but at times Williams makes the Cowboy Junkies seem downright rambunctious. "Lonely Girls" comes off as a self-indulgent, albeit lovely bit of noodling, and as romantic as it is, "I Envy the Wind" sorely needs a little breeze behind it. More effectively, Williams is sexily aggressive on the smoldering "Steal Your Love" and she paints a convincing, gloomy picture on "Bus to Baton Rouge." The title cut is easily the album's high point, a pulsing slow-rocker that nails the "love as drug" concept in chilling, knowing fashion. Thematically, Williams has never been warm and fuzzy, and she dwells repeatedly here on failed relationships with such well-written downers as "Out of Touch," "Are You Down," and the beautifully country "Reason to Cry." Moments of brilliance aren't hard to find, but a party record this ain't.—RW