Lucinda Williams gets better with age
Somerville Theatre, Somerville, Mass. Oct. 20, 1998
By Jeffrey B. Remz
SOMERVILLE, MA - Success may have been a very long time in coming for Lucinda Williams, but that doesn't seem to have made her any worse for wear in concert.
In the first of two sold-out shows, Williams was in top notch form with a stellar backing band to boot.
Williams certainly has grown into a far far more confident performer than she used to be when her nervous stage manner made you wonder if she were about to go over the edge.
No longer. Williams circa 1998 has perhaps this year's best album "Car Wheels on a Gravel Road" to tour behind. The disc is by far the best seller of her career. She frequently introduced songs in an engaging, friendly style, telling several humorous stories along the way.
Williams played most of the new disc during the 100-minute show, including a generous 40-minute encore. As usual, Williams' vision of the world is not all that pretty.
For starters, there was "Pineola" from "Sweet Old World," about the suicide of a friend. Later, she touched on the same theme on "Sweet Old World" trying to understand why the act was committed.
The subject matter hasn't changed much over the years. one of the evening's highlights, "Joy" from "Car Wheels" includes the lines "I don't want you anymore/'Cause you took my joy."
Williams delivered the songs with a heartfelt style, not surprising given the story lines. At times, Williams was slightly overpowered by the music, but when it came to the softer, more laid back and far more country songs, that proved to be no problem.
The strongest suits of the band were the guitarists, John Jackson and Kenny Vaughn. the latter played with great style and effusiveness, ripping off numerous great lines. Jackson also took his turn and was effective on dobro as well.
Williams' has been a career in slow motion with long long gaps in between albums. It's a pity that given the quality of both recording and performance the wait was five years.
At least perfection was not only limited to the silver platter. Perhaps the ultimate compliment is that one wished to hear Williams play far longer.
Jim Lauderdale, who backed Williams on acoustic guitar and vocals, opened with a good 40-minute opening set. He alternated between straight country songs (scoring well on "Halfway Down" and "You Don't Seem to Miss Me," both hits for Patty Loveless) and a more soulful approach with his voice recalling Greg Allman.