Lucinda Williams' recent release, Little Honey, is a very good album. Critics and fans alike are hailing it as a "return to form"--meaning it's reminiscent of Car Wheels on a Gravel Road, the LP that cemented Williams' status as America's greatest songwriter. So does this mean Little Honey is Williams' second-best album? No way. Again, it's a fine album--all Lu's albums are fine albums; she sets her own bar sky-high--but I'm the sort of Williams contrarian who prefers Essence and West, her two most critically-derided albums (ironically, a fair amount of Honey was culled from West's cutting room floor). We could argue all day about shit like this, and the fact that such arguments occur is testament to the cult-like loyalty Williams inspires. But here's what really has me excited: On this tour, as evidenced by a dynamic, career-spanning set at the Pageant in St. Louis, Williams and her sensational backing band, Buick 6, are hardly obeying the "pimp the new record" rule that even well-established acts adhere to. Furthermore, she's playing the Showbox when she could sell out the Paramount or McCaw in a heartbeat. Something tells me these shows will be special, but then, even the most lackluster Williams show is pretty special.