Simply sweet

Lucinda Williams gets the crowd weepy at Laxson

RULING GUITARS <br>Lucinda Williams and guitarist Doug Pettibone strum their guitars for the Laxson crowd.

Lucinda Williams and guitarist Doug Pettibone strum their guitars for the Laxson crowd.

Photo By Meredith J. Cooper

Review: Lucinda Williams at Laxson Auditorium, Tues., Nov. 28.

“Oh, you picked a good show to go to!” I overheard one of the ushers tell a woman as she guided her to her seat for Tuesday night’s Lucinda Williams show at Laxson Auditorium.

The duo of Americana rock/ folk/country queen Williams and her longtime bandmate Doug Pettibone put on one hell of a performance, and the audience, packed with diehard Williams fans, responded accordingly all night long with tons of cheers, whoops and applause.

Williams, decked out in a leather newsboy cap (no straw cowboy hat this time), brown leather jacket and blue jeans, looked down-home funky-sexy as she and Pettibone played song after song—for about two hours—from Williams’ long, colorful career.

The two began their performance (after phenomenal 23-year-old self-described “Jewish blues singer from Oregon” David Jacobs-Strain’s opening act) with “Greenville,” from her very popular breakthrough album, 1998’s Car Wheels on a Gravel Road. Pettibone, as he did all night long, played a beautifully uncomplicated solo on one of the many guitars he pulled from the rack behind him.

Williams did a number of songs from Car Wheels, including “Lake Charles,” an exquisite tearjerker about an ex-boyfriend from Nacogdoches, Texas, who liked to tell everyone he was from Lake Charles, La. (Williams’ birthplace), which featured Pettibone on weepy pedal steel guitar. “Did an angel whisper in your ear / And hold you close and take away your fear / In those long last moments,” Williams sang in her trademark gravelly voice, which brought tears to the eyes of some members of the audience.

“I love this venue,” Williams said more than once. “It’s a beautiful room, one of the most beautiful-sounding rooms we’ve played in!”

Williams also previewed some songs from her new album, West, due out Feb. 13, which will feature jazz-bluegrass guitarist Bill Frisell as guest artist.

“What If,” from West, is “a sociological look at the planet and all that,” as Williams described it: “What if the president wore pink / And a prostitute were clean … / If hoboes had wings / And God became a bum?” She also played a song of hers called “Over Time,” which was recorded by Willie Nelson. The best way to describe it is simply: “purdy.”

It was Williams at her most subdued.

“This wins the award for best title,” Williams playfully announced at one point before launching into Little Son Jackson’s “Disgusted.” Pettibone, on this one, was the usual master of cool restraint, playing yet another fine, whiskey-toned solo.

My favorite for the night—well, other than her kick-ass, scaled-down acoustic rendition of “Righteously"—was another new song, inspired by jazz artists Nina Simone, John Coltrane and Chet Baker: “Where Is My Love?”

“If it’s not working, we’ll stop,” Williams told the audience before delivering the moving song. No longer wearing her leather jacket and without a guitar in her hands to hold on to, Williams moved her right hand to the music in a most touching way, making her appear both vulnerable and intent on getting her message across. “Is my love in Birmingham / Making honey from the bees / Overjoyed to be my man / And rollin’ up his flannel sleeves,” Williams sang with her sweet twang and rasp.

The audience surely loved her, and one got the impression everyone would have gladly stayed much later than 10:40 p.m., when the show ended.