Lucinda Williams

8 p.m. Sunday, October 19. The Pageant, 6161 Delmar Boulevard.

Oct 15, 2008 at 4:00 am

Let's face it: Since the career-making album Car Wheels on a Gravel Road, Lucinda Williams' songwriting has declined precipitously. It's like she's been lurching and straining after the sensuous Southern realism which once sounded so fresh. She's grown more militant, even strident, and the newly released Little Honey swerves between amped-up country rock, forlorn ballads and anti-corporate tirades, all of them genuinely felt, but too often smacking of filler. But even Williams' filler can sound killer, with long-time guitar ace Doug Pettibone going for the throat of the blues, and singers Matthew Sweet and Susanna Hoffs playing off of her slur and warble. Her greatest songs may be retreating from view, but her instincts as a singer and performer haven't failed her yet.