She is indeed a special artist.
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i've seen her live a bunch of times and while i think she's a reluctant performer (too insular, a little stiff, doesn't really engage with the audience), her bands are always great and she always rocks--i especially like that she'll contort and stretch out her tunes, rather than just copy the album versions. her songs may only be a couple of chords, but they're damn good. arguably, she's the greatest female rocker--not just aping her male peers, but doing it her way, with that tough and tender thing going on.
Glad to hear Lucinda can put on a good show. My wife and I saw her on the last date of her tour a couple of years ago. She was exhausted, said so-we felt sorry for her, and the show was lackluster. Saw Beth Orton and she forgot her own lyrics. Kasey Chambers feinted on stage and fell off her stool but she was WAY pregnant. I still absolutely love all three and cherish their music.
Saw her in good form open a large venue for Neil Young, and rough and tired or lazy in a small theater as described by Bizango: forgetting lyrics and restarting songs with too many self-deprecating digressions. She's lucky to have a crackerjack band that balances her lack of varnish-- which after all is exactly what she is all about, and her core audience knows and loves this.
I've seen Lucinda several times, and always good or better performances. The best being when she closed her "Essence" tour in Santa Cruz, CA after a sold out stand at the Filmore. She was really excited by her "breakout" acclaim, and promised to play till the bouncers dragged her from the stage. Which they did, during a version of "Get right with God" that had everyone in her outfit banging on instruments on the stage. (By that point, she'd been sipping determinedly at something in beer cup all night.) Amazing show, but I was ready to go home! She's famously erratic, so not surprised about the mixed reviews here. Still very with a try, though.
On the recordings, I don't think anything since "Essence" has been up to the standard of "Carwheels" and "Essence." If you don't know it, I highly recommend the early "Happy Woman Blues."
Saw her last week at the wonderful Mountain Winery in Saratoga, CA. Third time I've seen her live and it will probably be the last. She's a very strong songwriter and I own and enjoy most of her albums, but I don't care for her stage persona. She seemed particularly out of it at this show. I appreciate the talent in her current band, but they're a bit too in the badass/axe-slinger model for my taste (others will disagree). Robert Earl Keen and his band opened the show and stole the night as far as I am concerned. Add them to your don't-miss list.
Hm, gave up on Lucinda after Car Wheels on a Gravel Road. All that false bravado and faux warbling not my cup of tea. She's one of those legends for the sake of it type. Been around so long she deserves something. Anything....
To stop a song and start over during a show is a rookie move. A lame one too; no matter the "perfectionist" tag shes get cred for. Read somewhere she drove Steve Earle nuts with her perfectionism. So much so he only recorded one of several songs he was supposed to do with her.
Kathleen Edwards - now there's a talent with a voice like an angel. Consummate performer to boot.
My wife and I saw a couple of years ago in Raleigh NC at Memorial Auditorium. Not bad, not bad at all. It's funny to hear all the different impressons of her stage persona. She was well engaged with the audience when we saw her, made a lot of small talk, and was relaxed and quite congenial. It was right before the election and thankfully, refreshingly, she didn't badger us with any lefty rubbish. She said only that people should vote and speak up "because that makes things interesting." I guess all the different opionions reflect how even seasoned performers have their up and down shows. IIRC, she chatted about her recent marriage and showed us her ring. Maybe that had something to with her good mood. She also mentioned how good the acoustics were there at Memorial Auditorium. She said she often can't hear herself at other venues.
Band was pretty good. I wasn't blown away but they did their job well (and opened for her separately as their own band). I hadn't heard all her new songs on a soon to be released album but was able to pick up on them right away. Only disappointment was she didn't play Righteously but that was alright because the rest of the show was solid.
"Hm, gave up on Lucinda after Car Wheels on a Gravel Road. All that false bravado and faux warbling not my cup of tea. She's one of those legends for the sake of it type. Been around so long she deserves something. Anything...."
Notec, you gave up on her too soon. Essence, World Without Tears, West are solid albums, godd stuff. Whatever she deserves she deserves because she makes good music.
Musicians, artists, whatever. Most of them are flakey in one way or another. If I didn't listen to anyone I thought was a little off center I'd have about 5 albums in my collection.
Notec, Steve Earl has been through ,what, seven wives ? His inability to get along with any female is most likely his own problem. Lots of seasoned vets stop their shows and start tunes over. I don't like it either but it happens. Recently I saw Harry Connick not only stop mid tune but publicly ream his violinist and threaten her job. When the audience reacted he yelled" Are you writing her check ?" To me this is not a rookie thing it's a big fat egoist thing. When men do it it seems more acceptable somehow. I met another artist from her lable some years ago and he claims she really is a perfectionist and is known to be hard to work with. IMHO, BTW, the "faux" warbling came from heroin use but don't quote me on that. I totaly agree with you on Kathleen Edwards. She's fantastic. JMHO - Jim
Notec, I have a higher opinion than you do of her recent studio albums, but I generally agree with you regarding her concert persona. There is a contradiction between the allegation of perfectionism and her self-deprecating monologues and false starts that reveal the seams in the fabric in concert. She represents her touring as a work in progress, and invites the audience to share and identify with her flaws perhaps even more than her strengths. In this sense her persona is not so different from what drew the simpler audiences of the past to identify with country music stars as everyday people. The difference these days is that the audience is more gentrified, though perhaps no less gullible.
BTW, a similar cult of personality follows Billy Bragg's ego in concert.
Hm, gave up on Lucinda after Car Wheels on a Gravel Road. All that false bravado and faux warbling not my cup of tea. She's one of those legends for the sake of it type.
Thank goodness, I was beginning to think I was alone. I've never been able to warm up to Lucinda, though I have tried. Saw her live during the "gravel road" years at Merlefest and didn't like her at all. The only thing gravelly on that day was her voice.
"car wheels" is the one most people cite, and i agree it's a great record, but it's also probably her most conventional singer-songwriter fare. i prefer "essence" and "world without tears", where she more or less invents her own style--minimalist, raw and hyper-emotional. not many artists choose to be less polished and ambitious with succeeding releases, and i give her credit.
i'll also second notecs nod to kathleen edwards, who does slightly prettified version of lucinda very well--her records are excellent.
Again, what you are witnessing on the road is her very serious narcotic habit and her depression in its varying stages. It is actually quite sad but it is not a "put on" or a "contradiction" in the usual sense. Rock and roll is full of male artists who have gone through long stretches of subpar performance because of drug habits ( which frequently enhance their persona). Ryan Adams comes to mind. Another troubled artist with great talent but you really hold your breath when you go see him live cause you never know what kind of shape he's going to be in. Lately he seemed sober and he has been fantastic. I agree that Lucinda Williams has not been at her best for several years now and I agree that there are other , better choices to see live. However, she is as talented as any and if/when she gets it together she will be right back on top. - Jim
saw jerry jeff walker in 73 and he had to start over several times. something about san gria wine. still listen to mr bo jangeles. gives these people a break. they are artists not machines or performing monkees. saw eric clapton during one of his less than stellar moments. don,t care.that.s the way it goes. did charli parker always display genuis?
i saw lucinda a few nights ago in erie pa. in the second row,she was sober and in great spirits,it was one of 10 solo dates on the tour,it was a nice change to see her without her band,just her and her guitar and music stand,i think the new material is as strong as anything she has ever done,im crossing my fingers for more dates hopefully soon,i would love to see her again in buffalo/cleveland/pittsburgh
Sorry to hear some didn't take to Lucinda. I fell for her the first time I saw/heard her on Session at West 54th. I got "Car Wheels" for my brother. It took him a little time to warm up to her sound, but now he really loves her. I consider her one of the best song writers today and enjoy everything she has done. Car Wheels was somewhat of an addiction for me at one time, I'm listening to it right now.