Lucinda Williams

Lucinda Williams can get very personal on her recordings, for better or for worse. Last year's West was a melancholy collection about the loss of her mother. It was also a rather downtrodden buzzkill if you weren't in the mood for it. With Little Honey, Williams lightens up a bit, dishing about her reinvigorated love life while re-energizing that laidback drawl her fans have come to love.

Little Honey opens with "Real Love," a spunky Southern rock song that immediately declares her intentions for the man she's out on tour with (her producer, Tom Overby). "Honey Bee" continues in the rock vein, with heavy guitar solos pairing nicely with Williams' gruff voice as she declares, "All up in my hair, honey bee, I swear, we make quite a pair."

But the most telling moment comes from the ambitiously long "Rarity," nearly nine minutes of slow-winding balladry. Soothing horns complement Williams' calming inflection as she dissects being with someone outside the spotlight—a notion clearly foreign to this songwriting star. And though they have nothing to do with her personal life, a romping cover of AC/DC's "Long Way to the Top" and the bluesy bar tune "Well Well Well" are added doses of fun. Levity is a notion that has been absent from Williams' work for a long time now, and it makes a welcome return here.

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Michael D. Ayers