15. Lucinda Williams, 'Car Wheels on a Gravel Road'
It's not that the performances on Car Wheels on a Gravel Road aren't first-rate — they are. It's just that when you start with songs this impressive, it's hard to go wrong. Lucinda Williams had done strong work before, but it all came together here. From the openhearted yearning of "Right in Time" to the surrealist country funk of "Joy," she runs a gamut of styles and themes, handling each with authority and ease. You don't arrive in your mid-forties without stories to tell — Williams' are riveting in every detail.