RATTLING THE HINGES


;No doubt about it, the ;soulful cries and curses coming out of Lucinda Williams are the heart-aching sounds of a woman unhinged yet strangely in control. That contradiction and the vocal and lyrical artistry of Williams — a lauded perfectionist who rides high in the traditional/alternative country music universe — are in ample evidence on West, the latest release from the singer.

;;It doesn't seem natural for such a petite blonde past her 50th year to look so good and sound so mean … or sweet … or sexy. The 13 songs the Louisiana native sings on West capture these many moods — from the sugar of "Mama You Sweet," a good-bye kiss for her dear and recently departed mother, to the warpath beats of "Wrap My Head Around That," a tell-off to a former lover, in which her vocals are spit with intensity.

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;Williams hangs mellow on the opener, "Are You Alright?", a sincere reach-out to a once-special person now MIA. Soon after, though, she thunderously humiliates whoever inspired "Come On," as evidenced by lyrics like: "All you do is talk the talk/You can't back it up with your walk/You can't light my fire, so fuck off."

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;She's unhinged and moody on West, swinging through escapist fantasies ("What If") and torturous realities ("Unsuffer Me") as the music travels from melodious ballads to hard-hearted rock, with cross-genre stops in between. It's how she so eloquently speaks the unspoken through her lyrics that keeps it real for those who treasure her tough love.

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