Lucinda Williams has enjoying a wellspring of creativity in the last few years with her critically acclaimed and award-winning double album Down Where The Spirit Meets The Bone (2013) and now yet another double album in The Ghosts Of Highway 20. The key to prolific output is making sure the quality never drops off and being able to maintain the listener’s attention. Williams does that brilliantly — seemingly slowing time to a Southern humid crawl where the exquisite guitars of Greg Leisz and Bill Frisell shimmer and hang in the heavy air and drums shuffle along. The majority of the songs are inspired by experiences connected to Highway 20 (aka Interstate 20), running from Georgia to Texas, making this an album firmly grounded geographically and autobiographically in the American South.
Williams’ singing is again endlessly fascinating as she winds her emotionally wracked voice around her lyrics — stretching vowels and snarling and slurring her way across her richly detailed poetic landscape. You can feel her pain when she sings about death and loss and, just as compellingly, you can hear the joy and playfulness when she sings about love on ‘Can’t Close The Door On Love’ and ‘Place In My Heart’. Williams covers Springsteen (‘Factory’) and Woody Guthrie, writing the music to the latter’s ‘House Of Earth’. It’s her originals that pack the heavier punch though with ‘Louisiana Story’ and the title track forming the core of this compelling and transportive album, it’s themes and it’s languid, bluesy and atmospheric soundtrack.