West was a dynamite album from Williams. But with Down Where the Spirit Meets the Bone, she has outdone herself. This album is spectacular beyond words.
This is not radio-friendly country-fare. Even the two or three songs which have a sound which might fit into a country radio playlist are too long to be played by a radio. Only three tracks on this twenty-song double album clock in at under four minutes. Eleven of the tracks come in at five minutes or more, with the final track clocking in at over nine minutes. I mention the length only because its significant to me that the majority of the songs last so long. Williams isn't throwing out three-and-a-half-minute cuts which pack as little as possible into everything. These songs have something to say and Williams is as hard-hitting as ever. There's thought-provoking material throughout this album, and Williams has to take the adequate amount of time to say what needs to be said.
This is "alternative" country at its finest.
To describe what exactly Williams is singling about in these songs is tricky, because to truly get it, it's something that needs to be experienced. It's heavy music that's not meant to be listened to as background noise as so much music is today.
Williams voice is brilliant. It is original and unmistakable. And rather than trying to deduce and describe what's going on in these songs, instead, it's best to just let each listener experience it without an idea of what to listen for.
Instead, I will point to a few specific tracks that I felt were particularly strong (though there isn't a weak track to be found here). Some of my favorites included "East Side of Town," "Compassion," "West Memphis," "This Old Heartache," "Stowaway In Your Heart," and "One More Day."
The album was composed almost entirely by Williams, with one track being written by JJ Cale and the some of the words to the opening track, "Compassion," being composed by her father Miller Williams (and which give the album its title).
"Have compassion for everyone you meet," Williams sings, in the words of her father. "You do not know what wars are going on down there where the spirit meets the bone."
I could go on for hours about this album, but I'm going to end by giving it my highest of recommendations. This is easily one of the best albums I have heard all year.