The title of West reflects the change in Lucinda Williams' life as she moved to Los Angeles. It also reflects what had been left behind. Williams is nothing if not a purely confessional songwriter. She continually walks in the shadowlands to bring out what is both most personal yet universal in her work, to communicate to listeners directly and without compromise. If Essence and World Without Tears took chances and stated different sides of the songwriter and her world, West jumps off the ledge into the sky of freedom, where anything can be said without worry of consequence and where anything can be said in any way she wishes. It's entirely appropriate that West was released on the day before Valentine's Day 2007, for it's a record about the heart, about its volumes of brokenness, about its acceptance of its state, and how, with the scars still visible to the bearer, it opens wider and becomes the font of love itself. But the journey is a dark one. First there's the music and the production. Williams chose Hal Willner to produce West. Williams, who'd been writing a lot, demoed some songs before she brought in Willner. He stripped down the demos but kept the scratch vocals. From there, the pair created the rest of the album together, never re-recording Williams' initial vocals. The vocals were accompanied by her guitar playing; Willner wanted her inherent phrasing and rhythmic flow. Willner also brought his own crew to play with Williams. This collaboration -- as unlikely as it might seem on the surface -- results in something utterly different and yet unmistakably Lucinda Williams. West is a warm, inviting, yet very dark record about grief, the loss of love, anger at a lover who cannot deliver, and embracing the possibility of change. In other words, it's not without its redemptive moments. Williams has put all of her qualities on display at once with an unbridled and unbowed sense of adventure here on her eighth album. She, her bandmates, and Willner have come up with exactly what pop music needs: a real work of art based in contemporary forms and feelings. West is an album that will no doubt attract more than a few new fans, and will give old ones, if they are open enough, a recording to relish.
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AllMusic Review by Thom Jurek