Music » CD Reviews

Lucinda Williams

World Without Tears (Lost Highway)


If Lucinda Williams is such a genius, then how come she keeps making the same album? Car Wheels on a Gravel Road, her 1998 breakthrough after years of obscurity, defined and perfected her earthy songwriting, filled with lust, longing, and exacting character detail. Its acclaim deserved, the record also painted her into a corner. No matter how many superlatives are thrown her way, she's had trouble surprising us since then.

Essence, the 2001 follow-up to Car Wheels, suffered by comparison, and while Williams's newest, World Without Tears, is a step up, again we get the blues-drenched hard-luck cases. She keeps crafting these laments intelligently, but too much of World is unrelenting and predictable.

When Williams does branch out from Car Wheels, the results are questionable. "Atonement" might have been a hoot, if Tom Waits had turned its religious fanaticism into a carnival grotesque. But in Lucinda's hands, it's just a bluesy swamp, self-consciously serious and overwrought. Later, "American Dream" is a so-so commentary on ruined lives. The music is moody enough, but the observations are standard Mellencamp-fleeces-Springsteen at its most obvious. As is, it's all too much of a drag.

We welcome readers to submit letters regarding articles and content in Cleveland Scene. Letters should be a minimum of 150 words, refer to content that has appeared on Cleveland Scene, and must include the writer's full name, address, and phone number for verification purposes. No attachments will be considered. Writers of letters selected for publication will be notified via email. Letters may be edited and shortened for space.

Email us at

Support Local Journalism.
Join the Cleveland Scene Press Club

Local journalism is information. Information is power. And we believe everyone deserves access to accurate independent coverage of their community and state. Our readers helped us continue this coverage in 2020, and we are so grateful for the support.

Help us keep this coverage going in 2021. Whether it's a one-time acknowledgement of this article or an ongoing membership pledge, your support goes to local-based reporting from our small but mighty team.

Join the Cleveland Scene Press Club for as little as $5 a month.