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Lucinda Williams, Kasey Chambers easily overcome unknown songs

FleetBoston, Boston, June 10, 2001

By Jeffrey B. Remz

BOSTON - Lucinda Williams hit the city for a gig only five days after the release of "Essence," the follow-up to her masterpiece "Car Wheels on a Gravel Road."

The country-oriented performer, who throws in doses of blues and rock into the potpourri, performed a generous eight songs from "Essence." Now that may be trying on an audience probably largely unfamiliar with the disc.

But that did not seem to matter to the crowd of about 2,900. While the new songs generally do not have the musical firepower or narrative of most of the body of Williams' works - something Williams fully acknowledges, but songs Williams certainly is quite pleased with - they worked in concert.

The songs from "Essence" - with the title track, "Out of Time," "Reason to Cry" and the bluesy gospel stomper "Get Right With God" being the highlights - tend to be sparer musically.

Most tend to be about carnal pleasures and delights (as Williams said after singing the title track "We're all adults here, right? We can talk about that stuff") and pain.

Plenty of it. The pretty sounding "Blue" views the idea of feeling down and depressed as more of a companion and friend - almost a mindset to be embraced instead of warded off.

"Joy" from "Car Wheels..." starts off with the angry words "I don't want you anymore/'Cause you took my joy." Ouch!

While the words can obviously tend towards the negative, this was not a downer of a show by any stretch.

Williams, 47, has grown tremendously as a performer over the years. Instead of the singer who could make an audience feel nervous, she was genuinely happy to be before bigger and bigger crowds as her career has continued upwards.

Her singing was quite fine throughout no matter what style she played - country, blues, gospel, rock (a particularly charged version of "Change the Locks," which Tom Petty covered once upon a time). Williams, decked out in black leather pants, a red low-cut blouse, a generous amount of makeup and a cowboy hat, can adapt her voice to whatever style without coming off as a dilettante.

Aiding Williams was her stellar quartet. "I'm in love with my band," said Williams during the second encore. "Aren't they really great? This is the best band I've ever had." All were stalwarts, particularly guitarist Bo Ramsey, with lots of tasty lines throughout, filling in with the right musical muscle instead of overpowering the songs, and fellow axe man Doug Pettibone.

Unfortunately Williams avoided her 1992 disc, "Sweet Old World" along with a few other gems like "Passionate Kisses" and "I Just Wanted to See You So Bad."Apparently the 95-minute show was truncated, at least based on having played almost 2 1/4 hours in New York City a few days before.

Too bad because while the songs Williams shared with her fans were top notch, more would have been even better.

Complementing Williams was the very fine opener Kasey Chambers of Australia. Chambers with one album under her belt and another due in late August or early September, offers a good strong voice and a warm stage presence.

Chambers tended to play more of a country-directed set with several strong new songs thrown in. She, too, had a strong band with her father, Bill Chambers on guitar. And for her efforts, Chambers received a well-deserved standing ovation.

While they are certainly at different stages of their careers, the audience received a lot unknown music from Chambers and Williams.

Fortunately, both were more than up to the task.

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