Down Where the Spirit Meets the Bone

“Compassion,” the opening cut of Lucinda Williams’ new double-CD, is adapted from her father’s poem of the same name and, delivered with just her voice and simply strummed guitar, it provides the album’s theme. The 20 songs explore from many angles the power of compassion, or lack thereof, to illuminate the difficulties inherent in human nature. Fittingly, for exploring such an expansive topic, Williams gives the songs plenty of musical room to breathe. And her collaborating musicians—drummer Pete Thomas and bassist Davey Faragher (of Elvis Costello and the Imposters fame), as well as Ian McLagan of Faces—make the most of this freedom—providing each song a shine and deep groove to support those lyrics. Williams is a master (some might say perfectionist) at creating musical settings for her lyrics, and the voice that delivers those words, which often come in repeated, slightly varied phrases, is often affected with a slurred enunciation that on repeated listening emphasizes the battered but still loving heart that created them. As she sings in “Stowaway in Your Heart,” “I’m a stowaway in your heart … Thank you for giving me a place to keep my love.”