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Album review: Lucinda Williams’ ‘The Ghosts of Highway 20’

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Two and a half stars

Lucinda Williams The Ghosts of Highway 20

Once a notoriously meticulous perfectionist, alt-country singer-songwriter Lucinda Williams has become downright prolific in recent years, and The Ghosts of Highway 20 is her second double album in less than two years. Unlike 2014’s Down Where the Spirit Meets the Bone, though, Ghosts is a lethargic, slow-paced slog, with almost none of the fire Williams has shown on late-career highlights like Spirit and 2008’s Little Honey. Ghosts has more in common with 2007’s moody West, which Williams recorded following the death of her mother. Songs like the plodding “Death Came” and the nearly 13-minute closing track “Faith and Grace” are similarly morose and arty, an approach that gets monotonous over 14 tracks that span two discs and almost 90 minutes. There are occasional bright spots, like the swampy blues of “Doors of Heaven” and “Bitter Memory,” gritty Bruce Springsteen cover “Factory” and the sweet, catchy “Can’t Close the Door on Love.” The seven-minute title track demonstrates Williams’ ability to slowly build a song to a powerful crescendo, but most of the album is meandering and repetitive rather than cathartic.

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