Blessed

2008's Little Honey was Williams at her most content. But on her 10th disc, she revives the literary realism that's turned so many of her songs into true-talk crushers. The quietly heartbreaking "Soldier's Song" is an imagining of home from the front lines, and even humid evocations of romantic awakening (like the soul study "Kiss Like Your Kiss") suggest rapture might break her. Williams' wearied singing and rich guitar shadings from Greg Leisz and Elvis Costello bring out the emotionalism in an hourlong set of often somber roots-rock songs. "I'm 57, but I could be seven years old," she sings in "Copenhagen," mourning the death of her former manager and letting loss make her new again.

Listen to "Buttercup":

Gallery: Random Notes, Rock's Hottest Photos

From The Archives Issue 1126: March 17, 2011