Car Wheels on a Gravel Road

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Car Wheels on a Gravel Road
CarWheelson aGravelRoad.jpg
Studio album by
ReleasedJune 30, 1998
StudioRoom and Board Studio in Nashville, Tennessee; Rumbo Studio in Canoga Park, California
GenreRoots rock, alternative country, country blues, folk
ProducerRoy Bittan, Steve Earle, Ray Kennedy, Lucinda Williams
Lucinda Williams chronology
Sweet Old World
Car Wheels on a Gravel Road

Car Wheels on a Gravel Road is the fifth studio album by American singer-songwriter Lucinda Williams. It was recorded and co-produced by Williams in Nashville, Tennessee and Canoga Park, California, before being released on June 30, 1998, by Mercury Records. The album features guest appearances by Steve Earle and Emmylou Harris.

Car Wheels on a Gravel Road won a Grammy Award for Best Contemporary Folk Album, and received a nomination for Best Female Rock Vocal Performance for the single "Can't Let Go". It was Williams' first album to go gold,[1] and remains her best-selling album to date, with 872,000 copies sold in the US as of October 2014.[2] Universally acclaimed by critics, it was voted as the best album of 1998 in The Village Voice's annual Pazz & Jop critics poll.


After signing a record deal with Rick Rubin's American Recordings label, Williams began recording songs for Car Wheels on a Gravel Road in 1995.[3] The album was originally made in collaboration with Williams's long-time producer and guitar player Gurf Morlix. According to Morlix, the recordings (in Austin, Texas) were "90% done," but Williams shelved them and redid them in Nashville. In the middle of the re-recordings, they "butted heads in the studio" and ended their partnership.[4] She also worked with Steve Earle who said of the experience that it was "the least amount of fun I’ve had working on a record."[5]

The final version of Car Wheels on a Gravel Road was produced by Roy Bittan.[6] Williams incorporated country and blues elements into her modern roots rock style for the album.[1]

Critical reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Review scores
AllMusic5/5 stars[7]
Chicago Sun-Times4/4 stars[8]
Entertainment WeeklyA−[9]
The Guardian4/5 stars[10]
Los Angeles Times3.5/4 stars[11]
Rolling Stone5/5 stars[14]
The Rolling Stone Album Guide5/5 stars[15]
The Village VoiceA+[16]

Car Wheels on a Gravel Road was met with widespread critical acclaim.[1] Reviewing for Entertainment Weekly in July 1998, David Browne found Williams' hard-edged evocations of Southern rural life refreshing amid a music market overrun by timid, mass-produced female artists.[9] Richard Cromelin of the Los Angeles Times said her "resonant, resolute and reassuring" answers to the questions romantic passion and pain pose are as ambitious as the "rich", commanding sound she crafted with producers Steve Earle and Ray Kennedy.[11] NME magazine said Williams transfigures "American roots rock into a heady, soul-baring and, would you believe, unabashedly sexy art form",[12] while Uncut credited the album with "repositioning country-blues roots rock as contemporary Southern art" and offering listeners "a sense of life and place that leap from every line and guitar lick".[17] Village Voice critic Robert Christgau argued at the time that she proves herself to be the era's "most accomplished record-maker" by honing traditional popular music composition, understated vocal emotions, and realistic narratives colored by her native experiences and values:[18]

Williams's cris de coeur and evocations of rural rootlessness—about juke joints, macho guitarists, alcoholic poets, loved ones locked away in prison, loved ones locked away even more irreparably in the past—are always engaging in themselves. And they mean even more as a whole, demonstrating not that old ways are best, although that meaningless idea may well appeal to her, but that they're very much with us.[19]

At the end of 1998, Car Wheels on a Gravel Road was named one of the year's best albums in many critics' top-ten lists. It topped the annual Pazz & Jop poll and earned Williams a Grammy Award for Best Contemporary Folk Album, although AllMusic's Steve Huey later said it was her "least folk-oriented record".[1] In a five-star retrospective review,'s Kim Ruehl credited the album with solidifying Williams' status as one of the best singer-songwriters of all time, as she "single-handedly marries the genres of traditional and alternative country, roots rock and American folk music so smoothly, it almost feels like magic."[20] In 2003, Rolling Stone magazine called the record an alternative country masterpiece and ranked it number 304 on their list of The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time, 305 in 2012 revised list,[21] and 98 in their 2020 list.[22] In The Rolling Stone Album Guide (2004), David McGee and Milo Miles said it is a masterpiece of timeless quality and greater depth than anything else by Williams, who offers a perfect collection of "faces, fights, keening swamp guitar and sighing accordion, strong drink and stronger lust in an album about places shadowed by memory".[15] The music writers of The Associated Press voted it one of the ten best pop albums of the 1990s.[23] It was also included in the book 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die[24] and in the third edition of Colin Larkin's All Time Top 1000 Albums (2000), in which it was voted number 836.[25]

Based on such rankings, the aggregate website Acclaimed Music lists Car Wheels on a Gravel Road as the 303rd most acclaimed album in history. It also ranks as the 60th most acclaimed album of the 1990s and the fifth most from 1998.[26]

Track listing[edit]

All tracks by Lucinda Williams except where noted.

  1. "Right in Time" – 4:35
  2. "Car Wheels on a Gravel Road" – 4:44
  3. "2 Kool 2 Be 4-gotten" – 4:42
  4. "Drunken Angel" – 3:20
  5. "Concrete and Barbed Wire" – 3:08
  6. "Lake Charles" – 5:27
  7. "Can't Let Go" (Randy Weeks) – 3:28
  8. "I Lost It" – 3:31
  9. "Metal Firecracker" – 3:30
  10. "Greenville" – 3:23
  11. "Still I Long For Your Kiss" (Williams, Duane Jarvis) – 4:09
  12. "Joy" – 4:01
  13. "Jackson" – 3:42
Deluxe edition bonus tracks
  1. "Down the Big Road Blues" (Mattie Delaney) – 4:07
  2. "Out of Touch" – 3:50
  3. "Still I Long For Your Kiss" (Alternate version) (Williams, Jarvis) – 5:00
Deluxe edition bonus disc
  • Recorded live on July 11, 1998, at Penn's Landing in Philadelphia
  1. "Pineola" – 4:18
  2. "Something About What Happens When We Talk" – 3:44
  3. "Car Wheels on a Gravel Road" – 4:42
  4. "Metal Firecracker" – 3:39
  5. "Right in Time" – 4:32
  6. "Drunken Angel" – 3:27
  7. "Greenville" – 3:46
  8. "Still I Long For Your Kiss" (Williams, Jarvis) – 4:39
  9. "2 Kool 2 Be 4-gotten" – 4:53
  10. "Can't Let Go" (Weeks) – 3:51
  11. "Hot Blood" – 7:38
  12. "Changed The Locks" – 4:19
  13. "Joy" – 6:08



Chart (1998) Peak
Canadian RPM Country Albums 14
U.S. Billboard 200[27] 65


  1. ^ a b c d Lucinda Williams. AllMusic. Retrieved March 27, 2015.
  2. ^ Emily White (October 10, 2014). "Lucinda Williams Tops Folk Albums Chart, U2 Hits Alternative Songs Milestone". Billboard.
  3. ^ Cramer, Alfred William (2009). Musicians and Composers of the 20th Century. Salem Press. p. 1625. ISBN 978-1587655173.
  4. ^ Nichols, Lee (April 17, 2000). "Sideman Supreme Gurf Morlix Steps..." Music Out Front. Retrieved May 24, 2010.
  5. ^ Bukowski, Elizabeth (January 11, 2000). "Lucinda Williams". Salon Media Group. Retrieved November 2, 2015.
  6. ^ Creswell, Toby (2006). 1001 Songs: The Great Songs of All Time and the Artists, Stories and Secrets Behind Them. Thunder's Mouth Press. p. 36. ISBN 978-1-56025-915-2.
  7. ^ Huey, Steve. "Car Wheels on a Gravel Road – Lucinda Williams". AllMusic. Retrieved August 4, 2005.
  8. ^ Houlihan-Skilton, Mary (July 5, 1998). "Spin Control". Chicago Sun-Times. Archived from the original on February 29, 2016. Retrieved September 26, 2015.
  9. ^ a b Browne, David (July 10, 1998). "Dandy Williams: Much delayed and breathlessly awaited, Lucinda's gritty new cycle of songs Wheels so good". Entertainment Weekly. New York (440): 74. Archived from the original on March 22, 2017. Retrieved May 12, 2011.
  10. ^ Sweeting, Adam (July 10, 1998). "Lucinda Williams: Car Wheels on a Gravel Road (Mercury)". The Guardian. London.
  11. ^ a b Cromelin, Richard (August 9, 1998). "Lucinda Williams, 'Car Wheels on a Gravel Road,' Mercury". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on March 3, 2017. Retrieved March 27, 2015.
  12. ^ a b Martin, Gavin (July 25, 1998). "Lucinda Williams – Car Wheels on a Gravel Road". NME. London. Archived from the original on August 17, 2000. Retrieved November 11, 2011.
  13. ^ Pelly, Jenn (October 28, 2018). "Lucinda Williams: Car Wheels on a Gravel Road". Pitchfork. Retrieved October 28, 2018.
  14. ^ Edwards, Gavin (October 30, 2006). "Car Wheels on a Gravel Road (Reissue)". Rolling Stone. New York. Retrieved March 27, 2015.
  15. ^ a b McGee, David; Miles, Milo (2004). "Lucinda Williams". In Brackett, Nathan; Hoard, Christian (eds.). The New Rolling Stone Album Guide (4th ed.). London: Fireside Books. pp. 875–876. ISBN 0-7432-0169-8.
  16. ^ Christgau 1998a.
  17. ^ "Lucinda Williams – Car Wheels on a Gravel Road CD Album". CD Universe. Retrieved March 27, 2015.
  18. ^ Christgau 1998a; Christgau 1998b
  19. ^ Christgau 1998b.
  20. ^ Ruehl, Kim. "Lucinda Williams – Car Wheels on a Gravel Road, Deluxe Edition". Retrieved March 27, 2015.
  21. ^ "500 Greatest Albums of All Time Rolling Stone's definitive list of the 500 greatest albums of all time". Rolling Stone. 2012. Retrieved September 9, 2019.
  22. ^ "The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time". Rolling Stone. September 22, 2020. Retrieved October 10, 2020.
  23. ^ "Top Albums of the 1990s". Retrieved April 13, 2018.
  24. ^ Robert Dimery; Michael Lydon (March 23, 2010). 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die: Revised and Updated Edition. Universe. ISBN 978-0-7893-2074-2.
  25. ^ Colin Larkin (2006). All Time Top 1000 Albums (3rd ed.). Virgin Books. p. 259. ISBN 0-7535-0493-6.
  26. ^ "Car Wheels on a Gravel Road". Acclaimed Music. Retrieved February 22, 2020.
  27. ^ Car Wheels on a Gravel Road – Lucinda Williams > Charts & Awards > Billboard Albums at AllMusic. Retrieved December 8, 2011.

External links[edit]