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Sour turns to sweet,
sultry and downright sassy

Lucinda Williams / Charlie Louvin
Pabst Theatre
Milwaukee, WI
July 31. 2007
Lucinda Williams
Lucinda Williams
Charlie Louvin
Charlie Louvin

Story and photos by Andy Argyrakis

About two verses into "Ventura" during Lucinda Williams' intimate show at the historic Pabst Theater, the singer/songwriter began coughing uncontrollably and motioned the band to cease fire. After gasping for breath for a few seconds, chugging some water and clearing her throat, she returned to the microphone with a heartfelt apology, though it was clear the cobwebs weren't completely shaken. Though she applied gallant effort to the opening of "Are You Alright?" the inflammations kicked up once again, leading the angered and embarrassed headliner to once again halt the players.

Yet even at her worst, Williams still outshadows many troubadours of today, constantly churning out worthwhile alternative country/roots rock albums and supporting them with unpredictable set lists on tour. And despite her condition, she provided that exact experience in time, but not before soothing her throat a few more times and downing some additional drinks. "It must have been the pico de gallo," she joked, much to the delight of the audience, whose cheering helped edge her over the hurdle. Though "Fruits of My Labor" was still a bit shaky, Williams with a trusty acoustic guitar by her side made it through the song unflinchingly and everything was officially back on track.

Considering the current tour is in support of the recent West (Lost Highway), she highlighted many of those selections, including "Words," which featured a renewed blend of sweetness and sassiness, plus the ditching of her six string. For the next 90 minutes, the rebounds continued at a head turning pace, most notably the militant electric strummer "Those Three Days" and the blustery jam session "Out of Touch." The concert gained additional momentum with a midpoint collaboration between Williams and legendary opening act Charlie Louvin, the feisty 80-year-old and one time member of influential gospel greats The Louvin Brothers. Aside from the group's "first ever love song" affectionately titled "When I Stop Dreaming," Williams tipped her hat at Louvin's religious roots, trading verses of her own "Get Right With God" with the old timer.

However, the mood turned from a Sunday morning church service to a hell raising honky-tonk within seconds thanks to the merciless "Come On," followed by the ominous shadow lurker "Unsuffer Me." Williams and her backers turned especially insurgent come the brand new (and yet to be recorded) "Honey Bee," which showcased the most gloriously gruff side of the fierce front woman's vocals the entire night. Ironically, her encore kicked off with just the opposite tone, channeling a much softer, almost angelic register on the tender hearted "Like a Rose" and the emotionally exhausting (but overwhelmingly appreciated) "Steal Your Love." In constantly riding the roller coaster of emotions (and overcoming the real life crisis at the beginning), Williams put the rebellious soul back into country music, trading overt commercial attention for consistency and credibility.
Lucinda Williams
Lucinda Williams
Charlie Louvin
Charlie Louvin & Lucinda Williams

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