Death strolls through Lucinda Williams' 10th album like the chess-playing figure in The Seventh Seal. Even when it's not looming heavily over the proceedings, like the suicide that triggers "Seeing Black" or the dead husband and father who narrates "Soldier's Song," there's a mournful quality that drives almost every minute of Blessed's hour. Even the blisteringly raw opener "Buttercup" laments the end of something, in this case a relationship. Williams' last album, 2008's Little Honey, was the singer-songwriter's most joyful album. On Blessed, she turns the other way — not distressing so much as accepting and occasionally questioning. It's a heavy listen, especially since half of the dozen songs clock in at five-plus minutes. But it's not without its sad, moving rewards. — Michael Gallucci
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