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Little Honey

Lucinda Williams
(LOST HIGHWAY)

A well-regarded, moody artist makes new music influenced by an unexpectedly exuberant new love relationship. Do we get sudden shifts toward rainbows and puppies? No, but the same pattern shows up with remarkable frequency. From Jackson Browne’s Hold Out to Ani DiFranco’s Dilate, these works often sound looser than the artist’s previous releases. And while the best of the new tracks add a fresh complement to the artist’s oeuvre, there’s glaring inconsistency, with inconsequential and tiresome exercises diluting the gems.

Now comes a set from the paragon of indie Americana, and it’s co-produced by her inamorata. Williams kicks ass with a Zeppy riff-rocker (“Real Love”) and is brusquely bawdy on the stomping “Honey Bee.” Throughout the set, beautiful arrangements (hushed horns, growling guitar duels) compensate for some undercooked lyrics and over-baked vocals.

What’s with the running thread of extended jabs at the rock ’n’ roll life? It’s a deleterious distraction from intimate winners like “Knowing.” Almost all the little disappointments could’ve been forgotten, though, had she fully pulled off the surprise AC/DC cover.