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Review and photos by Phil BonytataLucinda Williams has travelled many roads...some more forgiving than others. In her earlier years the alt country icon's music wasn't easy to define. LA called her music "to country for rock" and Nashville called it "too rock for country." Her commercial break came on 1998's Car Wheels on a Gravel Road. It was easier for her now to experiment with new genres such as blues and more advanced rock stylings. On her 2007 album West Vanity Fair laid down the super praise, saying "Lucinda Williams has made the record of a lifetime - part Hank Williams, part Bob Dylan, part Keith Richards circa Exile on Main St. ..."
The Pabst Theatre and it's inhabitants were lucky again to have the troubadour's music illuminate the dark corners of our souls and also reminding us of the simple joys of life that many of us take for granted. Lucinda (wearing a simple black blouse, jeans and cowboy boots) opened with "Motherless Children" and "Stop Breakin' Down" off her 1992 debut Ramblin'. As she somewhat nervously sang - she forgot the proper chords on "Stop Breakin' Down" - saying "I guess I practiced too much late at night." The audience hooted back in approval which seemed to lift her confidence level. "Big Red Sun Blues" featured Lucinda mixing it up with her backing band Buick 6 in dirty backwater blues fashion. "Something About What Happens When We Talk" and "Memphis Pearl" off of 1992's Sweet Old World played beautifully with Lucinda's vibrant and elastic vocal range. Between songs she would tell small, personal tales of her life straight from the words on her notebook...she's not quite comfortable engaging her audience through the spoken word. Realizing this she said "If you think I'm bad reading notes... I was at a New York Dolls concert where David Johansen had to read all of his lyrics!" But her confidence lies in the sincerity of her music... The entire South's shadows of smoky backwoods, broken hearts and booze-fiiled juke joints emerge with a new found clarity through her deeply personal lyrics.
"Drunken Angel" had her intoxicating voice captivate and mesmerize as it burrowed deep into the subconscious. The swampy anger of "Joy" was laid bare bones with her rough and vibrant lyrics. While Buick 6 laid down a tight rhythm section along with bust-your-balls guitar work - it was the slow songs that made one's eyes widen with their brutal honesty and deeply personal poetic vistas.
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