Lucinda Williams does anguish so well it’s easy to forget that Happy Woman Blues is not just the title of her 1980 album, but also the way she thinks of herself. That identity comes across full force in Little Honey, the follow-up to 2007’s heavily brooding West, where her melancholy voice seemed to creak with sadness. Here, a full-throated Williams revels in the rejuvenation of her engagement to her manager/co-producer Tom Overby, over whom she’s positively giddy on "Real Love." Her newfound bliss opens the floodgates to a musical revival, as well, since Little Honey, her ninth studio album, ranks as one of her most diverse, ranging from pounding rock ‘n’ roll (the raw sex of the title track) to the Hank Williams-ish country blues of "Well, Well, Well," to "Knowing"'s ‘60s soul. But some of the finest writing appears on "Plan to Marry," as thoughtful a meditation on love as any time-honored sonnet. Just when Williams seems to have run the gamut, she pulls out a Stones-y (via Louisiana) cover of AC/DC’s "It’s a Long Way to the Top" as the punctuation mark. It all makes for a rollicking ride with one of roots-rock's most unpredictable and passionate artists.
It isn't surprising that Lucinda Williams' level of craft takes time to assemble, but the six-year wait between Sweet Old World and its 1998 follow-up, Car Wheels on a Gravel Road, still raised eyebrows. The delay stemmed both from label difficulties and Williams' meticulous perfectionism, the latter reportedly over a too-produced sound and her own vocals. Listening to the record, one can understand why both might have concerned Williams. Car Wheels is far and away her most produced album to date, which is something of a mixed blessing. Its surfaces are clean and contemporary, with something in the timbres of the instruments (especially the drums) sounding extremely typical of a late-'90s major-label roots-rock album.
Celebrated as the musical poet of the English landscape, Vaughan Williams was also a visionary composer of enormous range: from the pastoral lyricism of The Lark Ascending and the still melancholy of Silent Noon to the violence of the Fourth Symphony and the grand ceremonial of All people that on earth do dwell, he assumed the mantle of Elgar as our national composer. This edition, released to mark the 50th anniversary of his death, presents all the major orchestral, chamber, vocal and stage works, as well as many lesser pieces and rarities, in the finest interpretations. All your favourite Vaughan Williams is here, in over 34 hours of music on 30 CDs.