Lately, I've been a bit uninspired to keep up on my blog. That changed tonight.
I just got home from seeing Lucinda Williams at Town Hall here in NYC. She is here all week performing various albums start to finish from her amazing career. Tonight I was lucky enough to see her perform 1998's Car Wheels on a Gravel Road.
Car Wheels is not only one of my favorite Lucinda Williams albums, but it's also one of my favorite albums of all time. It was this album that garnered her critical acclaim, some mainstream success and earned her a Grammy for Best Contemporary Folk Album. This album took Lucinda over six years to write and record.
It was also this quest for perfection that became apparent tonight. There were a few times when she stopped mid song because something wasn't right. That sent the pacing a bit off through out the evening, but I must say it made the night even more enjoyable for me. Seeing an artist perform with that kind of pursuit for perfection was very cool.
She spoke between sets about each song and what it meant. She talked about the first time she performed the title track in Memphis while her father was in the audience. The song is basically a series of images set to music about life growing up in the South. He came up to her afterwards and said, "I'm sorry." "Why," she said. "Because that's you as the little girl in that song." Which on a conscious level she never realized before. She talked about how "2 Cool 2 Be 4-gotten" was written on a New Years Day and inspired by two books of photography-- Juke Joint: Photographs by Birney Imes and Appalachian Portraits by Shelby Lee Adams. I love that song with it's refrain "June Bug vs. Hurricane" and it's descriptive lyrics that make these world of photographs come alive.
I enjoyed listening to her talk and describe each song and how it came to be. It gave the audience an insight into her artistic process even if it meant stopping to get it right. She was joined on stage by several guests including Steve Earle. Without his help Car Wheels would have not existed according to her. He simply replied, "It was hard to fuck up great songs".
She finished the last song on the album ("Jackson") and left the stage for a bit of an intermission. She came back to perform other songs from other albums including songs from her new album West. One of the highlights of the night was a duet she did with Steve Earle that was written in the vain of old country duets (think Tammy Wynette and George Jones) titled "Jail House Tears". It was a real treat. Steve Earle performed an amazing version of "Ellis Unit One" which was stunning. Another guest to join her was Fionn Regan. All I can say is wow. He only performed one song ("Be Good Or Be Gone" ) and left the stage to tremendous applause. I'm looking forward to learning more about him and his music.
One of the last songs she did was "Unsuffer Me" from West. This was also one of the songs she stopped and had to start from the beginning. Needless to say it was completely worth it as it left the audience on their feet yelling for more. She has a few more dates in the city and I urge anyone in town to see one of these shows. It was a wonderful evening watching this artist get it right. She mentioned a less than favorable review she got from Time Out New York. That seemed to set her off a bit, but she responded to the crowd, "listen I'm an artist not a performer. You get what you get." Yes, you do Lucinda and thank you for that.