Lucinda Williams, Lucinda Williams

Holly George-Warren

By Holly George-Warren

on 01.14.14 in Reviews

When Lucinda Williams performed her self-titled breakthrough album at a Nashville club as the finale of the 2013 Americana Music Festival, she reminisced about Music Row’s negative reaction to her songs when she first pitched her work there. “They didn’t like how I mentioned body parts in my lyrics,” she groused with a laugh. Of course, Mary Chapin Carpenter would take that album’s “Passionate Kisses” to the country charts, earning Williams her first songwriting Grammy in 1993. Patty Loveless also scored a hit with the LP’s visceral story song, “The Night’s Too Long.” And fellow Americana queen Emmylou Harris would cover its glorious “Crescent City,” remarking of Williams: “Just when you thought there were no more truths to be unearthed in the human heart, along comes Lucinda Williams who plows up a whole new field.”

Her 1988 masterpiece, reissued

Indeed. The 25th anniversary reissue of Williams’s 1988 masterpiece brims over with 11 of the Louisiana-born songwriter’s earth-moving best, plus her stirring version of Howlin’ Wolf’s “I Asked for Water (He Gave Me Gasoline).” Accompanying the original release is a live 1989 set from the Netherlands, featuring the album’s coproducer-guitarist Gurf Morlix and drummer Donald Lindley. (A sub filled in for bassist Dr. John Ciambotti, the former member of Clover who’d quit touring to become a chiropractor.) “YA-HOO,” one spectator hollers just after the blood-drippin’ “Abandoned” — and he’s right: Williams’s emotive drawl backed by the tight combo sounds terrific throughout. Highlights also include the rockin’ opener “I Just Wanted to See You So Bad” and the title track from her bluesy Smithsonian Folkways album, Happy Woman Blues. Other time-capsule extras: several live radio acoustic performances, featuring a sublime “Side of the Road” and gut-bucket “Nothing in Rambling,” a Memphis Minnie cover; plus a Delta-style “Goin’ Back Home,” a 1983 studio recording with Taj Mahal on guitar and harmonica.