"Is your death wish stronger than you are?" Lucinda Williams asks in "Little Rock Star," a cautionary song swathed in guitar noise that someone should instant-message to Pete Doherty, Ryan Adams and Amy Winehouse. While it shows that the 55-year-old barbed-wire country singer is wary of rock's trappings, Little Honey proves she's still crushed out on the music. On "Real Love," amid boogie-rock riffing, she alternately pledges her heart to a guy, a girl and an electric guitar. And "Honey Bee" ranks with Joe Liggins' 1945 hit "The Honeydripper" as one of the nastiest apiological jams ever ("Now I got your honey," she hollers, "all over my tummy!"). There are some throwaways: "Jailhouse Tears," a honky-tonk trailer-trash bitchfest, is playacted too hard by Williams and guest Elvis Costello. But it's useful comic relief between the downtempo numbers that — for all the rock thrills here — remain Williams' most potent showcases. "If wishes were horses," she moans on the sublime song of the same name, "I'd have a ranch." Ride 'em, sister.
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