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Williams puts on great night of music

Tramps, New York, June 30, 1998

By Brian Steinberg

NEW YORK - Is that small, shy woman the larger-than-life Lucinda Williams? In the second of two shows, the demure alt-country chanteuse towered over the audience, giving a performance that should raise concertgoer expectations to a new level.

Williams relied mostly on new material from her anxiously awaited album "Car Wheels On A Gravel Road," but still found time for older songs and a few blues covers. Backed by a pheomenal band that included special guests Bo Ramsey on slide guitar, David Mansfield on fiddle, and Jim Lauderdale on backing vocals and acoustic guitar (not to mention spectacular regulars Kenny Vaughan on guitar and Richard Price on bass), Williams swayed and tremolo-ed her way through a great night of her own brand of music.

Hampered at first by a mix that didn't give Mansfield's fiddle much room to breathe, the band clicked by song number two. Live renditions of "Still I Long For Your Kiss" and "Changed The Locks" were particularly inspired, and, after all that, the crowd was stunned when Williams brought out Jimmie Vaughan for a little blues guitar accompaniment on tunes like "Disgusted."

Williams barely spoke, except to introduce her songs and her band. But her songs, in which each phrase gives volumes of information in only a few well-chosen words, said plenty. After the sterling set and two encores, the crowd emptied out into the street. Many left. And that was a shame, because some fans simply wouldn't let Williams go without one more goodbye. After the club had put music over the sound system, Williams and cohorts came out to play "Big Red Sun Blues" and "Passionate Kisses" to cap off the night.

If this is the level of musicianship Williams is exhibiting at the start of her tour, one might shudder to think of the display this group will put on after the road weaves the members closer together.

Lauderdale opened with a 45-or-so-minute set of his own, accompanying himself on acoustic guitar. At first, the sweet-voiced singer seemed a little hesitant, but quickly won over the crowd with songs like "King of Broken Hearts" and "Divide and Conquer." Lauderdale is known for having a "pretty" set of pipes, but he's developed some welcome grit in his voice that adds a new dimension to his performance.

©Country Standard Time • Jeffrey B. Remz, editor & publisher •
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