Previously Performed in: 2015, 2004
(Los Angeles, CA)
Long before Americana was a marketable music genre, and long, long before it was an award category, there was Lucinda Williams, chronicling Southern hardship and hope in the bars of 1970s Houston and Austin.
The rest of the world took a while to catch up. At age 45, Williams had her Grammy-winning career breakthrough with the grit-and-polish Car Wheels on a Gravel Road. She’s ridden that prolific streak into her 60s, and last year put out her most ambitious album yet. Down Where the Spirit Meets the Bone is a meaty double disc, the sort she's long wanted to release and finally could on her own label. Twenty songs sprawl across Mississippi soul, slide-guitar heartache homilies, holy-rolling swamp rockers, emotional-crescendo jams, and twelve-bar love songs that don't end in the blues. The haunting title is a lyric in “Compassion.” The song represents the first time Williams has added music to words written by poet Morton Williams, her father and for decades her editor and the guiding light in the economy of her songwriting. He passed away in January, after years in the fog of Alzheimer's Disease.
The stories Lucinda Williams tells—hard or tender, lush or sparse, and sometimes all four at once—are deceptively straightforward and universal in their emotions and messages. Many of her best-loved songs like “Joy” or “Are You Alright?” appear astonishingly simple on a page, until you add the inimitable alchemy of her voice and instrumentation. There's not a voice more comforting—or heartwrenching—in all of contemporary music.