Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide Album

Lucinda Williams: Car Wheels on a Gravel Road [Mercury, 1998]
Williams hasn't just perfected a style, she's mastered a subject. She doesn't just write realistically and music traditionally, she describes and evokes Southerners for whom realism and traditionalism are epistemological givens. She writes for them, too--not exclusively, she hopes, but in the first instance. They are her people and her neighbors, with damn few media-savvy professionals among them. So reassuring shows of hip come no more naturally to her finely worked, cannily roughed up songs than pop universality. Situated in a subculture far removed from both Manhattan and Alternia, these indelible melodies and well-turned lyrics constitute a dazzling proof of the viability of her world and a robust argument for its values. Emotion makes you smirk? Local color has no place in your global mall? Well, you have Lucinda Williams to answer to. Because this is where she establishes herself as the most accomplished record-maker of the age. A+