Car Wheels on a Gravel Road, one of the better albums I’ve ever enjoyed, turns twenty years old this year. I was only slightly familiar with Lucinda Williams at the time it was released, and I had never owned any of her music. She had a duet with Steve Earle in 1996 on his (to me, best) album I Feel Alright, so when I first heard the title-track “Car Wheels on a Gravel Road” I thought I should take the Lucinda plunge and get her new album of the same name. Things haven’t been the same since.
Not that anything bad has happened to me. It’s just that the bar for Americana singer-songwriters became raised to an unfair height and most of them are boring when compared with this album (even Lucinda’s later music hasn’t compared well for me). I’m not a musician; I can’t even play the radio well, but the music and production here stand out to me as being above the Americana norm, above any norm. What captured me the most, and kept me listening to this album for decades, were the lyrics of the songs. The entire album is filled with line after line after line of lyrics that sound…correct. Lucinda’s voice, the music, and the production play a part in it all but the combination of these with her lyrics perfects this album.
“Smell of coffee, eggs, and bacon; car wheels on a gravel road.” I bet just reading those words sounds quite bland for you, but I read them while hearing Lucinda sing them. There is a vast difference.
I just wanna live the life I please. I don’t want no enemies. I don’t want nothing, if I have to fake it.
Could have held on to that long, smooth neck. Let your hand remember every fret. Fingers touching each shiny string. But you let go of everything, Drunken Angel.
I take off my watch and my earrings. My bracelets, and everything. Lie on my back, and moan at the ceiling. Oh, my baby.
There are plenty more lines that will stay with you. But heck, this ain’t no record review. A great, in-depth read about the creation of this album can be found here:
Don’t skip over that link! It’s a long read but it’s good.
If you ever get a chance, listen to this album. It’s great background noise for whatever you might be up to on a weekend afternoon. But, as with most great music, it’s best to take it for a road trip. It goes well with the hum of the highway.
As I said before, this album is twenty years old this year. In celebration, Lucinda is currently on tour and playing this album in its entirety. Taking a road trip to one of her remaining concerts to hear this album in person might be 2 Kool 2 Be 4-Gotten.
June Bug vs. Hurricane…hey, hey.