The Ghosts of Highway 20
(Highway 20 Records)
After releasing her excellent 2014 double album, Down Where the Spirit Meets the Bone, it would be reasonable to expect Lucinda Williams to take some time off. Here she is though, less than two years later, with another quite good and quite long album. Williams has always been an introspective songwriter but she’s never sounded as wistful or as content as she does on The Ghosts of Highway 20. In song after song she makes peace with her past, her past loves, and her mortality. She reflects on memories and then talks about how these ghosts of her past got her to where she is. First she mourns a death on “Death Came,” but on the very next track she sings, “Open up the doors of heaven, let me in.” She’s not so much welcoming her demise as she is expressing her satisfaction with the life she’s led. In a song like “Bitter Memory,” she has things she’s trying to get past, but she still acknowledges it’s bearing on her present. In the surprisingly soulful “I Know All About It,” her past crops as advice to a younger girl going down the road Williams once did herself. Then there’s “Louisiana Story,” which doesn’t need any of the heaviness of many of these other tracks. It’s just a simple, dreamy song about the basic memories of her childhood. Not major events, but the small memories we all have that seem so insignificant at the time. Despite its reflective nature, The Ghosts of Highway 20 sounds like the right album for her to have made in 2016. Here, she’s continuing to solidify her place in modern music and what she’s contributing to it. She’s looking back while pointing the way forward.