Lost Highway - 2003 -

Raw and ragged, Lucinda Williams launches herself once more into the fray with her seventh album. 'World Without Tears' comes, in Williams terms (gaps between albums having been known to last up to eight years), hot on the heels of 2001's 'Essence' but is, if possible, even more nakedly honest than that bare-to-the-bones LP.

According to her autobiographical songs, Williams is a John Coltrane, Neil Young-listening temptress and social observer. She obsessively and meticulously documents the bleeding edges of dysfunctional relationships, the "screaming sin" ('Real Live Bleeding Fingers and Broken Guitar Strings') and passion: "when you run your hand/all up and run it back down my leg/get excited and bite my neck/get me all worked up like that ('Righteously'). The album is drenched in guileless, uncensored sexuality - not bad for a gal that turned 50 earlier this year.

Recorded as live, the power of 'World Without Tears' is in its immediacy rather than its perfection and Lucinda doesn't spare the horses. There's punk blues on 'Atonement' and she dives headfirst into the raunchy rock of the Rolling Stones on 'Real Live Bleeding Fingers and Broken Guitar Strings'.

Williams has waited a long time and taken a few wrong turns in her career but there's more strength than heartbreak on 'World Without Tears' and the way ahead looks more than promising.

Caroline Hennessy

Tracklisting: Fruits Of My Labour - Righteously - Ventura - Real Live Bleeding Fingers and Broken Guitar Strings - Over Time - Those Three Days - Atonement - Sweet Side - Minneapolis - People Talkin' - American Dream - World Without Tears - Words Fell