- Audio Mixer: David Blanco.
- Photographers: David McClister; William R. Ferris.
- Calling her own shots seems to agree with Lucinda Williams. While the singer/songwriter has long had a reputation for taking her time between albums, she's back with another double-disc set, The Ghosts of Highway 20, just a year-and-a-half later. She launched her own label with Down Where the Spirit Meets the Bone in the fall of 2014. In many ways, The Ghosts of Highway 20 feels like a companion piece to Down Where the Spirit Meets the Bone in its emotionally direct approach and willingness to let the songs play themselves out at their own pace. -- they drift with the current, but they don't meander, and they get where they're going in their own sweet time. Most of the performances on Highway 20 are anchored by the guitar interplay of Bill Frisell and Greg Leisz (the latter also co-produced the album with Williams and Tom Overby), and while their performances seem low on flash, especially given the estimable talents of these players, they have a faultless instinct for the moods and rhythms of these songs, and this is an album where nuance truly takes center stage. However, while Down Where the Spirit Meets the Bone was an album that covered a wide variety of themes, the 14 songs on The Ghosts of Highway 20 all seem to turn on some sort of struggle -- against depression ("Dust"), against the limitations of our lives on Earth ("Doors of Heaven"), against the past ("Bitter Memory" and the title song), and against betrayal ("I Know All About It"). Even as Williams calls up nostalgic images of life in Louisiana ("Louisiana Story"), she's still trying to free herself from memories of hurts inflicted by her loved ones, and her appeals to the Lord for guidance and peace ("If There's a Heaven" and "Faith & Grace") sound and feel sincere, as if the shackles of her physical being are just too much for her. Williams' vocal performances here represent a remarkable high-wire act, as she brings her emotions to the surface without resorting to histrionics. Her musical adaptation of Woody Guthrie's "House of Earth," a curiously erotic dialogue between a whore and a customer, is all the more striking for its refusal to play broad. After releasing one of the best and boldest albums of her career with Down Where the Spirit Meets the Bone, Williams goes from strength to strength with The Ghosts of Highway 20, and it seems like a welcome surprise that she's moving into one of the most fruitful periods of her recording career as she approaches her fourth decade as a musician. ~ Mark Deming
Spin - "Williams revisits childhood haunts and loves lost, mining both her personal history and the sum total of her musical influences -- blues, gospel, alt-country -- to achieve what is easily one of the best albums of her career."
Magnet - "Williams can write boozy rockers and barn-burning stompers, but she can write the hell out of songs about people kicking and fighting like mad to escape the circumstances they've found themselves in, and that's what GHOSTS is all about..."
Paste (magazine) - "From the title, evoking the Southern highway from Florida to Louisiana Williams has traveled since she was a small girl, these songs are journeys literal and metaphorical....GHOSTS hits the gut, the soul and the grey matter."