Lucinda Williams, "Down Where the Spirit Meets the Bone" (Highway 20)
"Have compassion for everyone you meet," goes the opening line on the new album from Lucinda Williams, who struggles to follow her own counsel on the rest of the two-CD set. More than once, Williams advises the subject of a song to buzz off as she copes with the toll of bad decisions, dysfunctional relationships and wrath inspired by heartache.
Like most of Williams' work, "Down Where the Spirit Meets the Bone" digs deep. The title comes from the thoughtful opening ballad, "Compassion," originally a poem written by her father. It's impossible to know another person's burdens, the song says.
Even so, Williams finds her tolerance tested. She sounds both angry and, at age 61, a bit weary. But whenever the energy flags during the 20-song album, one of the fine guitarists sitting in — co-producer Greg Leisz, Tony Joe White and Bill Frisell among them — launches into a rejuvenating solo. The album is a testament to the power of patience, empathy and a good guitar solo.