Guest post: Satchel Jones
|For my second guest post, local singer-songwriter Satchel Jones has kindly stepped in to review a recent Lucinda Williams concert he caught at Radio City. After the set, he even got the added bonus of going backstage and hanging out with Lucinda. Here's Satchel to fill us in the details about what sounds like an excellent show. Enjoy.|
Lucinda Williams @ Radio City Music Hall, 3-23-07
Lucinda Williams is as complex and multifaceted as the genre of music she plays. The critics tend to call it Americana in lieu of tripping over the term blues-folk-rock-alternative-country every time they describe her style, but for devoted fans like me, no explanation is necessary.
Williams has been in the business for three decades and makes no bones about it. She wears her long, slow path to success as a badge of honor. She was never a fly-by-night, one-hit-wunderkind looking to get rich quick and split with the money. In it for the long haul, she's developed a her body of work that reflects the craft of her extensive touring and vintage songwriting.
Her increasing success most recently culminated in a show at New York City’s prestigious Radio City Music Hall. Williams’ set was a casual and naturalistic presentation of songs. After walking onstage to booming applause, she addressed the crowd with a soft-spoken, down-home drawl reminiscent of my friend’s mother’s in Tennessee. You get the feeling that she’s playing exclusively for you on her couch, even willing to share homespun anecdotes between songs.
She played a strong sampling of her Grammy-winning, critically-acclaimed hits, such as the so-called hillbilly-hop tune “Righteously,” the heartrending “Lake Charles,” her bluesy stomp “Joy,” and the tragic “Drunken Angel.” As the set progressed, Williams began incorporating material from her newest album West. Violinist Jenny Scheinman came out for the last several songs, looking utterly terrified. Her skill was undeniable, but she was visibly intimidated by playing at Radio City. Williams even made a point to walk over to her side of the stage to lend support.
Her reaction to the violinist’s nerves only illustrated just how comfortable Williams has become in a live setting. She’s also very adept at interacting with her fans and understanding how the audiences respond differently from town to town. At one point in the show, she further proved her unflappability by gracefully adapting to a capricious moment.
“What is it Frank Sinatra said?” she asked. “If you can make it in New York, you can make it anywhere?” The crowd roared its confirmation. “I think that’s true. L.A. probably comes in a close second though.” Suddenly, like a cat that’s been purring on your lap and then bites you without warning, the crowd flatly booed her comparison. But she took it in stride, almost as if she expected that fickle reaction. “Oops, I guess I made a faux pas,” she said before introducing “West,” the title song from her new album.
Lucinda and Satchel
She and the band performed for almost another hour before Radio City personnel said she could only play one more song, enforcing their 11 p.m. curfew. “I’d like to pay homage to the people that inspired me so I’d like to close with ‘Hard Time Killing Floor Blues’ by Skip James. It was written in the 1930s during the Depression, but I think it’s just as relevant today.”
It started at a low smolder with Williams wandering into the song at a gentle, relaxed pace. Playing an old beat-up Telecaster, she started singing softly above the jangling guitar slung across her shoulder. The guitarist from the opening band, The Heartless Bastards, along with her full band and the now slightly less terror-stricken violinist, waited behind her to affix the song with wings and help it take flight. At least a thousand people were clapping along to the loose Delta blues backbeat, a wave of hands washing across the amphitheater air.
But it wasn’t that type of song. It wasn’t the house-rocking, juke-joint tune the audience was anticipating being sent home with. It was a slow burn. It was a soft moan. It was a dirty-overalls song better suited for the back porch than the front, made for singing around a small fire rather than under the blaze of bright city lights. It was a song of a restless soul in an uncertain time. The wordless refrain was a simple bluesy hum that separated the verses like the water lines left after a receding flood.
The song was short and powerfully subtle. Folks were humming the refrain as they filed out of the enormous amphitheater. It felt more like the conclusion to a church service than the finale of a blues-folk-rock-alternative-country show, but it was every bit as inspiring.
* MP3: "Can't Let Go" - Lucinda Williams from Car Wheels on a Gravel Road
* MP3: "Jackson" - Lucinda Williams from Car Wheels on a Gravel Road [Buy it]
Thanks a lot, Satchel for that great write-up. And make sure to check out Satchel's music by heading over to his MySpace page here.