This came out in 2001 – or at least that’s when I got it. Here’s what I said about it back then (with some minor editing):
It seems somebody lit a fire under Lucinda Williams.
Her new CD Essence comes just three years after the beloved Car Wheels On A Gravel Road. (I know that doesn’t sound like much, but given that Williams has taken up to eight years between albums, this is almost a frantic pace for her.) That’s not all that’s different about Essence. Lucinda’s longtime guitarist and musical partner Gurf Morlix is also gone, and it seems he’s taken a big chunk of her traditional sound with him. The twangy vibrancy and jangly roots-pop of Car Wheels and Passionate Kisses are missing, supplanted by the contemporary influence of producer Charlie Sexton, who gives these 11 tracks a more varied, less Nashville-centric vibe. Moody, bluesy fare like Lonely Girls and Steal Your Love drift by on lulling waves of intimacy and downbeat melancholy; rockier tracks like the Tom Petty-ish Out of Touch and the languidly sensual title cut wouldn’t be out of place on a Sheryl Crow album; quirky ditties like the backwoods gospel stomper Get Right With God and the Patsy Cline countrypolitan ballad Reason to Cry outline the breadth of Williams’ influences. In Essence, it’s a whole new Lucinda.