Produced by experimental musician Hal Willner, West was fashioned from scratch vocals. Willner constructed arrangements around these tracks, giving West a gritty sound that no amount of effects can improve upon. This is as close to the bone as Williams has ever sounded. Still, the songs are accessible.
She freights two-chord opener "Are You Alright?" -- a phrase that in lover's speak actually means "Do you still love me?" -- with such mournful despair that you won't know what hit you. "Learning How to Live" will likely find its way into the broken-hearted jukeboxes of the South ("They say the best is yet to come / But the taste of you is still on my tongue"). Don't spin the title track too late at night, because when Williams sings "I look off in the distance / And blow a kiss your way," you'll feel the loneliest ghost brush against your shoulder. West is the first real country-rock masterpiece of the 21st century.
Lucinda Williams at Pig Out in the Park on Sunday, Aug. 31, at 8:30 pm. Free.
PIG OUT PICKS
& lt;li & The Jonny Forest * 3 pm * City Hall Stage & lt;/li &
& lt;li & Shook Twins with Dane Ueland and Kaylee Cole * 6 pm * Clock Tower Stage & lt;/li &
& lt;li & The Chasing * 1 pm * Clock Tower Stage & lt;/li &
& lt;li & London Get Down * 3:30 pm * Clock Tower Stage & lt;/li &
& lt;li & Burns Like Hellfire * 3 pm * City Hall Stage & lt;/li &
& lt;li & Carrie Rodriguez * 8:15 pm * City Hall Stage & lt;/li &
& lt;li & Too Slim and the Taildraggers * 6:15 pm * Clock Tower Stage & lt;/li &
& lt;li & Lucinda Williams * 8:15 pm * Clock Tower Stage & lt;/li &