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Sweet Old Lu

Lucinda Williams enjoys the fruits of her labor.

She got there.

"I feel like with West I've finally come full circle. I had to go through Essence and through World Without Tears, and get all the criticism," Williams says. Working with Hal Willner was a key element of that process, she adds, reaching for physical terms like "musical landscape" and "spacious" to try to describe the result. "Production-wise, I think that West is really the record I always wanted to make. I was always a little afraid of working with a real producer, because I was afraid of getting overproduced. And this time I was ready to take that next step and see what would happen."

Though she has tried to tune out the lukewarm critical reception, one doesn't get the sense that Williams is much good at burying her emotions. "I hate reading reviews because I get all pissed off," she admits, and adds that the tone of some of the criticism "was almost kind of mean-spirited. I read this one, and [the author] was, like, this and that, blah, blah, blah, and then he goes: 'So wrap your head around that.'"

From way out West: Lucinda Williams and Doug Pettibone get the show on the road.
From way out West: Lucinda Williams and Doug Pettibone get the show on the road.

Not surprisingly, more than 80 percent of the writers who reviewed West — you can count them for yourself at the aggregator site metacritic.com — were men.

"The music business is dominated by men," Williams responds. "The government is dominated by men. The world is dominated by men."

Is it possible, though, that West — created by a 54-year-old artist confronting her mother's death while at the same time feeling more self-assured than at any other point in her career and happily in love — might resonate more with women than with men (and in particular with men who miss the "old" Lucinda)?

"I've found the love of my life. I'm engaged — God forbid, you know? I'm actually with someone! And now when I do interviews, they almost poke fun at that. They go, 'Now that you're in a satisfying, contented relationship, what's gonna happen to your songwriting?' I'm serious — I get asked this all the time."

And her answer? The singer previously known for interminable between-albums interims says she's ready to go back into the studio.

"I know, it's a different thing. That's a turning point too, I guess," Williams says. "I guess that just comes from having had more experience. I'm more prolific than I ever have been. I just feel more open at this time in my life, more ready to try new things, you know, probably a little bit more secure of myself in my older age. I like to quote what my dad says: 'Well, you know what your alternative is to getting older....'

"Somehow, in the back of my mind, I knew that I was gonna be able to achieve some sort of contented day-to-day life while still being able to make great art. But it took a while."

So wrap your head around that.

For more of what Lucinda Williams has to say about life, love and songwriting, click here.

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