Song 28: Lucinda Williams, “I Lost It” (1998)Posted: January 29, 2013
There are albums you could listen to every day and not care if you ever got tired of them, and there are albums that you need to stop listening to so you don’t risk ruining it. As if repeated plays, even on a medium that doesn’t degrade much over time, would make the magic leak out. For me, Lucinda Williams’s Car Wheels on a Gravel Road is the latter. I listened to it constantly in the year or two after its release, and then I just stopped. It wasn’t a conscious decision, but I think I knew that not wanting to hear it again would be a shame.
The trick with this song, of course, is Williams’s taking the expression “I lost it” literally. It’s a funny idea (Aimee Mann did something similar a few years earlier with “I’ve Had It”), but in Williams’s able hands, it’s also an old-fashioned country tearjerker (though Williams, as usual, sounds both vulnerable and strong enough to crush you).To me, this song all depends on one line in the bridge: “Give me some stuff.” How great is that? We’d spent a verse listening to Williams turn an idiom into a concrete plea, and then she gets vague, as if she’s reached a point of desperation and just throws up her hands. Love, drugs, sanity, whatever you want to call it. Stuff.
The fact that Car Wheels on a Gravel Road even came out at all is something of a miracle. It was recorded twice, after Williams thought the first version (recorded with musician and producer Steve Earle, who described the sessions as “the least amount of fun I’ve had working on a record”) sounded too polished. E Street Band keyboardist Roy Bittan produced the version we know today, and I can’t imagine it sounding any better. It’s good stuff.