The title track on Lucinda Williams’ twelfth album is a sparse, acoustic adaptation of Compassion, written by her father, poet Mitch Williams. It advocates empathy for everyone, no matter how troubled or difficult. Fortunately, the 61-year-old singer-songwriter is not quite so full of the milk of human kindness herself, and many of the most potent songs on her fantastic double album strike out at foes and scorn fools, from the country soul strut of Protection to the snarling put-down of Cold Day In Hell and hypnotic rock mantra of Foolishness.
Admirers from Bob Dylan to Emmylou Harris already know Williams to be a deft, economical songwriter with a main line to the truth and a voice that positively reeks of hard-earned experience. This feels like some kind of late career peak. Released on her own label, there’s 20 songs, each a beautifully crafted gem, Williams allowing herself space to leaven the tough talking mood with uplifting anthems like When I Look At The World and Walk On, and dig deep into the wisdom of suffering on the gorgeous Temporary Nature (Of Any Precious Thing). But what makes it so compelling is a classic rock Americana set up deftly interweaving lazy twin guitars and splashes of Hammond organ over steady rolling chord progressions that gather power with each repetition.