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Lucinda Williams

YOU CAN’T DEPEND ON ANYTHING, REALLY. Knowing that line from Lucinda Williams’s new album, Car Wheels on a Gravel Road, you know the whole thing—except, of course, the details, which count. You need to hear, for example, that the woman these songs describe used to listen to ZZ Top real loud. You need to hear that the eggs-and-bacon-perfumed kitchen of her childhood was in Macon, and that her friend from Lake Charles really came from Nacogdoches. Also, that all she now hopes for from the old lover she listened to ZZ Top with is that he’ll respect her privacy; that the man from Lake Charles is dead; and that the sound of tires on the road near that house in Macon has imprinted her with some heavy burden of memory, an aural and American version of the Proustian madeleine.

Speaking of Proust, the French have a phrase—actually they have a great many, but the one I’m thinking of is la

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