Via a gravel road or ghost highway, Lucinda Williams has trekked many a mile in life and music – and the triple Grammy Award winner’s decision to take the off ramp for this Celtic Connections’ night in Glasgow was right up her fans’ street, so to speak.
It was a brilliant, rockin’ gig with Lady Lu and her red-hot band in truly blistering form, delivering with passion and verve new songs, classics and covers such as the magnificent “Magnolia” by JJ Cale, the final track from her Americana Music Award-winning double album, “Down Where The Spirit Meets The Bone.”
Other songs from it on this dazzling set list included lusty dose of Protection, a heart-tugging When I Look At the World, the no-nonsense warnings of A Cold Day In Hell plus a staggeringly swampy, powerful and goose-bumping West Memphis, all menacing is this shoulder-shrugging song about someone being framed for a murder and no one cares, the song declares, in that particular town.
In interviews she says nothing is ever too personal to write about and you just had to listen to two tracks darkly and gracefully performed here to realise that: Drunken Angel and Lake Charles from 1998’s peerless classic, Car Wheels On A Gravel Road. With grief never far from the surface in her material, the former song is about singer/songwriter chum, Blaze Foley who lived a perilous life before a violent death while the bittersweet tale that is Lake Charles, was created as a lament for an ex-boyfriend who passed away, mainly from self-inflicted habits.
She said both were staples of her live shows, and no wonder. They are gems played here beautifully, her achingly searing lyrics atop delicious electric guitar by ace slinger, Stuart Mathis, whose playing was magic throughout.
From her latest and 12th release, “The Ghosts of Highway 20,” she maps out songs from Interstate 20 that runs from Georgia to Texas. These look at her life, complete with bruises and sadness and all: starting school, where her siblings were born and so on.
The opening lines of Dust, one of only two new tracks, are: “There’s sadness so deep/The sun seems black,” delivered with her trademark deathly drawl, engrossing and haunting before the band, David Sutton (bass), Butch Norton (drums and percussion) and Mathis, kick in and all hell is let loose.
For my money, it’s hard to beat the lead, bass, rhythm guitars and drums’ set up – especially with this peerless selection of songs and a vocalist of glory and distinction singing them. Brooding, literate, artistic, emotional and riveting, Lucinda Williams shared a night of raw country, big rock and welcome tenderness with soul that we could all cherish.