I envy the wind
That whispers in your ear
That howls through the winter
That freezes your fingers
That moves through your hair
And cracks your lips
And chills you to the bone
I envy the wind
June 5: Lucinda Williams released Essence in 2001
Essence is Lucinda Williams’ sixth album. It was released in 2001. It is a wonderful album, one of the best albums that year, hell, one of the best albums that decade!
Essence was highly anticipated coming after a three-year gap from her lauded Car Wheels on a Gravel Road and the critical reviews reflect that. Although positive, none rate the album as highly as her breakthrough. Robert Christgau, who raved about Car Wheels, called the album “imperfect” but still praised her artistry saying “[she] is too damn good to deny.” Reviewers noted the difference in tone between the two albums with Rolling Stone citing the “willful intimacy” of the music while Spin contrasted its “halting, spare” presentation with Car Wheels “giddy, verbose” one. In a review posted by Salon the album was called “an emotional mess of a masterpiece”.
Q listed Essence as one of the best 50 albums of 2001.
Personnel on the album include Tony Garnier and Charlie Sexton, best known as part of Bob Dylan’s live backing band then and now. The album also features session drummer Jim Keltner, another Dylan collaborator.
Lucinda Williams – Essence (Live):
“Few artists in recent memory have been able to wring more from less than Lucinda Williams. The hauntingly beautiful, wistful, and often breathtaking Essence is another case in point of how far raw emotion and honesty can carry an artist. Williams’s singing is at its paralyzing best throughout 11 bare originals, an incredibly affecting vocal performance by a woman who was not blessed with exceptional tone, range, or pitch. Throughout, her voice is incredibly naked, vulnerable, and wrought with feeling. “Blue” and “Broken Butterflies” are gorgeous anti-lullabies whose simple melodies belie their poignant ruminations. The title track is a sultry and susceptible sex-as-drug come-on while “Reason to Cry” has all the hallmarks of a classic country lament. The only departure from the subdued mood is “Get Right with God,” a rousing gospel tune that practically begs for salvation through punishment and is the rare acknowledgement of a world beyond Williams’s own fears and desires. More meditative than the personal narratives found on Car Wheels on a Gravel Road, Essence is ultimately more powerful. Williams wallows in sorrow and weakness, and the result is moving and disarming. “
Lucinda Williams – I Envy The Wind (live, 2013, Barcelona):
“…she reveals a very different side of her musical personality on her sixth album, Essence. Subtle and often stark, Essence is an unusually quiet and frequently downbeat set that depicts a fragile emotional vulnerability which rarely makes its presence felt in Williams’ music; there’s an unadorned longing in songs like “Blue” and “Lonely Girls” that’s new and deeply affecting, and the leaf-in-the-breeze quaver of Williams’ voice on “I Envy the Wind” is as heart-rending as anything she’s ever committed to tape…”
– Mark Deming (Allmusic)
Essence on Spotify, the best album you’ll hear today: