Lucinda Willliams

Boarding House Park
40 French Street
Lowell, MA Venue Information
Buy Tickets Friday June 27, 2014 7:30 PM
$38 in advance / $138 premium / $45 day of concert
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For the past 30 years, Lucinda Williams has channeled her perspective as a proud but vulnerable Southern female into a string of stellar albums, each of which weave rock, country, folk and blues so tightly that each of the elements seems to disappear. Lucinda Williams (1988) was her breakthrough disk but her magnum opus, 1998's Car Wheels on a Gravel Road, sealed the her reputation as a formidable singer-songwriter. Ruminating on disappointments, fretting over lost friends, and celebrating the subtlest of life's joys, it was an obvious masterpiece that resounds with immediacy.

The object of cultish adoration for years, singer/songwriter Lucinda Williams was universally hailed as a major talent by both critics and fellow musicians, but it took quite some time for her to parlay that respect into a measure of attention from the general public. Williams released records only infrequently, often taking years to hone both the material and the recordings thereof. Plus, her early catalog was issued on smaller labels that agreed to her insistence on creative control but didn't have the resources or staying power to fully promote her music. Yet her meticulous attention to detail and staunch adherence to her own vision were exactly what helped build her reputation.

Williams was born in Lake Charles, LA in 1953 and grew up listening to classic country, delta blues and jazz. The family moved frequently as her father took teaching posts at colleges around Louisiana, Mississippi, Georgia, Arkansas, and even Mexico City and Santiago, Chile. Meanwhile, Lucinda discovered folk music (especially Joan Baez) through her mother and was galvanized into trying her own hand at singing and writing songs after hearing Dylan's Highway 61 Revisited. Immersed in a college environment, she was also exposed to '60s rock and singer/songwriters like Leonard Cohen and Joni Mitchell.

Williams performed around New Orleans as a folk artist who mixed covers with traditional-styled originals. In 1974, she relocated to Austin, TX, and became part of that city's burgeoning roots music scene; she later split time between Austin and Houston, and then moved to New York. A demo tape got her the chance to record for the Smithsonian's Folkways label, and she went to Jackson, MS, to lay down her first album. Ramblin' on My Mind (later retitled simply Ramblin') was released in 1979 and featured a selection of traditional blues, country, folk, and Cajun songs. Williams returned to Houston to record the follow-up, 1980's Happy Woman Blues. As her first album of original compositions, it was an important step forward, and although it was much more bound by the dictates of tradition than her genre-hopping later work, her talent was already in evidence.

However, it would be some time before that talent was fully realized. The simply titled Lucinda Williams was released in 1988, and although it didn't make any waves in the mainstream, it received glowing reviews from those who did hear it. Williams' sound had evolved into a seamless blend of country, blues, folk, and rock. It was clear that she had found her songwriting voice -- the album brimmed with confidence, and so did its assertive female characters, who seemed to answer only to their own passions.

It would be four years before Williams completed her official follow-up Sweet Old World in 1992. A folkier outing than her prior set, Sweet Old World was an unflinching meditation on death, loss, and regret. The record won rave reviews once again, and Williams toured Australia with Rosanne Cash and Mary Chapin Carpenter. On that tour, Carpenter decided to record Lucinda's "Passionate Kisses." It shot into the country Top Five in 1993 and won its writer a Grammy for Country Song of the Year. Other artists soon started mining Williams' back catalog for material: avowed fan Emmylou Harris recorded "Crescent City" on 1993's Cowgirl's Prayer and cut "Sweet Old World" for her 1995 alternative country landmark Wrecking Ball; plus, Tom Petty covered "Changed the Locks" for 1996's movie-related She's the One.

Her follow-up was finally released in 1998 under the title Car Wheels on a Gravel Road. Boasting a bright, contemporary roots rock sound with strong country and blues flavors, not to mention major-label promotional power, the album won universal acclaim, making many critics' year-end Top Ten lists. It also won Williams a Grammy for Best Contemporary Folk Album (despite being the least folk-oriented record in her catalog) and became her first to go gold, proving to doubters that she was not just a songwriter, but a full-fledged recording artist in her own right.

Williams delivered her next album, Essence, in 2001. An introspective collection, it found Williams taking a simpler, more minimalistic lyrical approach and was greeted with rapturous reviews in most quarters. The track "Get Right with God" won Williams her third Grammy, this time for Best Female Rock Vocal, which further consolidated her credibility as a singer, not just a songwriter. Williams returned in 2003 with World Without Tears, which became her highest-charting effort to date when it debuted in the Top 20. Two live recordings were released in 2005, Live @ the Fillmore and Live from Austin, TX. West arrived in 2007, followed by Little Honey in 2008.

Williams returned to the studio in 2010 with producer Don Was at the helm with help from her new husband/manager Tom Overby, with guests including Matthew Sweet and Elvis Costello, who sings and plays on almost half the record. Entitled Blessed, the album was released in early 2011, again to universal critical acclaim. In early 2014, Williams finally was able to reissue her 1988 self-titled album with bonus material. Because of music business complications it had been out of print for 10 years. Williams will have her first new record in 3 1/2 years in Sept. of 2014.

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Opening Performance by The Kenneth Brian Band

The Kenneth Brian Band's debut album, Welcome to Alabama, is an introduction to the New South by way of a relentless attack of tracks featuring masterful song-crafting, blistering guitar work, spot-on harmonies, and a take-no-prisoners-rhythm section, all tied together by Brian's honest voice and unapologetically straight-forward point of view. Welcome to Alabama was produced by Johnny Sandlin, the acclaimed producer who's worked with The Allman Brothers Band, Gregg Allman, Elvin Bishop, Bonnie Bramlett, Widespread Panic, Delbert McClinton and Wet Willie, among many others.

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