The album ends with "Not Long for This World," written by Willis and John Leventhal (who works frequently with Shawn Colvin). This delicate, wistful ballad is a chilling farewell, describing a couple in a state of knowing their lives together are over but not quite being able to say it. Willis inhabits this song, as she does all the others. She mixes levels of pain with nostalgia and forgiveness with sorrow.
Kelly Willis has become a great singer. She mixes a rapidly developing talent for songwriting with a strong ear for the work of other writers that can complement her own. If What I Deserve is not a serious contender among the best albums of this year, it means we're about to be hit by an onslaught of brilliant music.
Willis performs at the Side Door on Tuesday, March 30. The club plans to bring in more chairs, cutting capacity a bit with the intention of creating a more intimate environment. If her live act is as good as the record, this show should not be missed.