A glorious 20 track, double album from the queen of Americana. Most double albums have an inevitable feeling of too much weak material, superfluous padding, about them. Not this one, a jam-packed elemental tour de force from start to finish.

Williams is on top form throughout, her gritty voice and guitar shored up by quality writing, at time withering lyrics, and gnawing raw emotion. We‘re all familiar with her style and unique – often dark – view of life, love, relationships and vision. ‚Down Where The Spirit Meets The Bone‘ is no exception, but with more than a hint of redemption in the mix. Williams says of this release, it is an expression of her ‚optimism.‘ Not a description often attached to her usual, stripped-bare emotive take on life and love.

Tony Joe White and Jakob Dylan both feature together with strong support from multi-instrumentalist/producer Greg Leisz, Bill Frisell, and a couple of former Elvis Costello sidemen, drummer Pete Thomas and bassist Danny Faragher. The production is perfectly pitched and assured with such a great studio team onboard.

This has to be one of those sadly all too rare things, an absolutely essential album. Is it country, is it Americana, is it blues? It‘s all of those things and much, much more. Possibly the essential release of the year. (Highway 20 Records/Thirty Tigers)