Thanks to her Southern twang and onstage cowboy hat, Lucinda Williams has long been recognized as a country artist. But her most recent Grammy Award win in 2001 was for best female rock vocal performance, and on “Little Honey,” due this week via Lost Highway, Williams lets her rocker gal loose with authority.
Material for the follow-up to 2007’s “West,” which has sold 250,000 copies in the United States, according to Nielsen SoundScan, began taking shape during those sessions, but it didn’t fit with the album’s more melancholy vibe.
Williams also went back and poached from old, unfinished lyrics and finished what she’d started a long time ago. The origins of “Circles and X’s” date back to 1985, while “Well Well Well” was plucked from the “Sweet Old World” sessions of 1991. The resulting album dabbles in a variety of rock styles, from the dirty blues sound of “Jailhouse Tears,” on which Williams duets with Elvis Costello, and lead single “Real Love,” an uptempo number heavy with solos. There’s also a cover of AC/DC’s “It’s a Long Way to the Top (If You Wanna Rock’n’Roll).”
Williams is known for pouring her personal life into her music, but she views “Little Honey” as representing a different side of her. “The narrative songs are more about me looking at another person or another situation rather than it being introspective,” she says. “There’s a feeling across the album of, ‘Just lighten up.’ Even though it has some older songs, overall the album says, ‘I’m here, and I’ve not crawled down a hole. I’m here and I’m rocking out.'”