Tag Archives: Lucinda Williams


Margaret Glaspy Gets Earnest at a Sold-Out Bowery Ballroom

February 17th, 2017

Margaret Glasper – The Bowery Ballroom – February 16, 2017

The cold and wind in New York City was pretty insufferable last night. But lucky for me, I got to slip into The Bowery Ballroom and join a sold-out crowd for the brilliant Margaret Glaspy and the dynamos of Cuddle Magic, a chamber-pop group whose members have some impressive names on their résumés (Beyoncé, Amanda Palmer and Okkervil River). The six-piece took the stage first and launched into a set of songs from their brand new album, Ashes/Axis. Layered synths, staccato beats and exquisite vocals make it a great listen. The bandmates hopped down into the crowd and went acoustic for part of the set amidst their beaming audience. They also used the night as an opportunity to film a music video for “Kiss You”—there was a kissing booth set up downstairs and everyone was encouraged to slide on in for a cameo. Speaking of cameos, Glaspy briefly joined them onstage for a song they wrote together.

The headliner and her band made their way onstage next for a first-rate set of songs from her critically acclaimed full-length, Emotions & Math. Glaspy’s sultry voice could make any space intimate. She’s magnetic and it seemed impossible to not take a few steps forward to soak in every one of her nostalgic lyrics and jagged guitar riffs. Highlights included “Somebody to Anybody,” a cover of Lauryn Hill’s “Ex-Factor” and a soulful rendition of Lucinda Williams’ “Fruits of My Labor.” Glaspy brought out friend and collaborator Julian Lage to add to the guitar magic with a couple of exceptional solos. There’s affection, hurt and pride in her music, and she scrutinizes the highs and lows of love and heartbreak in a jaunty, approachable way. There’s no limit to this type of exploration, as musicians have proved to us for years. Here’s hoping Glaspy keeps on bringing us her earnest, gorgeous take on the matter. —Schuyler Rooth | @SchuylerSpeak




Don’t Miss Blake Mills Tomorrow Night at Music Hall of Williamsburg

July 29th, 2015

A musician’s musician, California native Blake Mills is a talented dude, ably working as a singer, songwriter, guitarist, producer and composer. And even if you don’t know his name (yet), plenty of big names in music do. “Eric Clapton recently called him ‘the last guitarist I heard that I thought was phenomenal.’ The producer Don Was says he is ‘one of those rare musicians who come along once in a generation,’” according to the New York Times. Mills founded his first band, the Dawes precursor Simon Dawes, with high school friend Taylor Goldsmith. When the group broke up, Mills went on to play in Jenny Lewis’s band and to tour with Band of Horses, Fiona Apple and Lucinda Williams, while managing to find time to do session work with the likes of the Avett Brothers, Norah Jones, Kid Rock, Neil Diamond and Lana Del Rey. As a means to drum up more session work, Mills (above, performing “Don’t Tell Our Friends About Me” for Public Radio International) put out his debut solo album, Break Mirrors (stream it below), in 2010, which led to him scoring producing work with acts like Conor Oberst, Alabama Shakes and Sky Ferreira. His sophomore effort, Heigh Ho (stream it below), arrived last year to some impressive reviews: “It moves through musical eras and genres without ever sounding out of place, too clever, or at all clumsy. Mills is as centered as a songwriter as he is a player and producer. There is nothing extra here and that’s as it should be. Heigh Ho puts on offer much of what he’s learned these past four years, and displays it all with acumen and openness,” per AllMusic. Currently winding down an East Coast swing, Blake Mills plays Music Hall of Williamsburg tomorrow night. Local jazz guitarist Julian Lage opens the show.


Lucinda Williams Rises to the Challenge at the Beacon Theatre

November 18th, 2014

Lucinda Williams – Beacon Theatre – November 17, 2014

Lucinda Williams celebrated her new LP, Where the Spirit Meets the Bone, with a spirited performance at the Beacon Theatre last night. For many artists, creating a double album of almost completely new and original music might be a bit daunting, but Williams’ musical output in recent years has been ambitious and inspired, and perhaps this is the new normal for her—the fans would certainly not complain.

With her leather jacket and confident, wide-legged stance, Williams commanded the stage, as usual, combining new songs—like “Protection,” the moody “Burning Bridges” and the bluesy “Something Wicked This Way Comes”—with material from back in the ’80s (“Side of the Road”), the ’90s (“Pineola,” “Lake Charles,”) and of course, a great deal from her prolific songwriting period during the Aughts. With a natural ability to give a strong sense of atmosphere with just a few well-chosen details, she’s always been an excellent storyteller. But during last night’s show, Williams prefaced another new song, “Compassion,” by saying it was especially challenging to write. It was the first time she attempted to put one of the poems by Miller Williams, her father, to music. She spoke about his insistence that songs and poems are “two different animals.”

Yet Williams rose to the challenge, and the resulting song was something of a departure from much of her lively, roots-y material, a stark, melancholic piece of music that seemed to wrap itself around the lines of the poem, allowing the rhythm of the words to inform the melody. The result was both arresting and refreshing, an interesting look at an artist seeking to keep exploring and challenging herself, while continuing to make and perform the music that has always spoken to her. —Alena Kastin | twitter.com/alenak


Hard Working Americans Launch Tour Tomorrow at Bowery Ballroom

January 22nd, 2014

Singer-songwriter Todd Snider’s newest project is the folk-hippie supergroup Hard Working Americans, which sees him teamed up with Widespread Panic’s Dave Schools on bass, the Chris Robinson Brotherhood’s Neal Casal on guitar and vocals, Great American Taxi’s Chad Staehly on keys and Duane Trucks on drums. They came together last year to record an eponymous album of covers (stream it below) by the likes of Randy Newman, Lucinda Williams and Hayes Carll. Schools, who produced it with Snider in Bob Weir’s TRI Studios in Northern California, said to American Songwriter “that the idea was for a sort of dream-team band to basically deconstruct and reconstruct these cover songs in our own image.” Their LP came out yesterday and Hard Working Americans kick off a nine-date tour tomorrow night at The Bowery Ballroom.


Anaïs Mitchell: Heaven to Hades in 90 Minutes

December 4th, 2012

Anaïs Mitchell – The Bowery Ballroom – December 3, 2012

Anais Mitchell began her 90-minute show at The Bowery Ballroom last night with an a cappella hymn, she and her bandmates singing gospel in a heavenly, monklike three-part harmony. It was utterly beautiful: a transcendent moment kicking off a show full of them. The hymn melted perfectly into “Dyin’ Day,” off Mitchell’s newest album, Young Man in America, her voice mixing with banjo, her sound a puree of Ani DiFranco, Neko Case and Lucinda Williams at the cusp of electric and acoustic. It was like if the sweet girl next door was filled with dark intensity.

Mitchell’s onstage presence was a generous one, sharing the limelight with her excellent backing band, sharing the stage with multiple appearances by the horn players from the opening act, Cuddle Magic, and sharing her emotions with the audience through her music. While her voice and delicate touch on the acoustic guitar could have carried the entire show on their own, she let the band stretch out, pausing between verses as banjo, Rhodes piano and bass stirred cinematic, bringing life to powerful imagery of her lyrics. The set leaned heavily on material from the album, with “Annmarie” and the title track becoming long, sweeping narratives. She explained that “Shepherd” is based on a book by her novelist father (whose face appears on her album’s cover). It is a chill-inducing song, haunting and beautiful and heartbreaking, and it was played to full chill-inducing effect, the crowd stunned into silence by its power.

Scattered throughout, punctuating the new material were more of those moments like the opening hymn. Mitchell paired in duo form with drummer-banjo player-everyman Ben Davis for a brand new tune, revealing a perfect, existential love song. Another track had her singing with keyboard-guitar player Rachel Ries, a tune off the Country E.P. Later the band extended their chops and showed they could handle a pop hook with a great cover of Robyn’s “Hang with Me.” The show closed with a swinging version of “You Are Forgiven,” Mitchell’s voice once again elevating and inviting. The encore perfectly displayed her two sides: starting with “Tailor”—strong, honest and emotional. Then the horns returned, the lights went to a dark red and the band played a deep, thoughtful “Why We Build the Wall,” off Mitchell’s Hadestown concept album. It wasn’t your typical uplifting show closer, but it was honest and felt complete. —A. Stein

Photos courtesy of Mike Benigno | mikebenigno.wordpress.com


Such a Night

October 4th, 2012

Love for Levon: A Benefit to Save the Barn – Izod Center – October 3, 2012

Levon Helm is a towering figure in American music and the main reason a band, well the Band, that was actually four-fifths Canadian could be considered quintessentially American. After Helm was diagnosed with cancer, he began hosting Midnight Rambles at his home barn/studio—ridiculously intimate affairs filled with music that kept onlookers smiling for days. And despite Helm’s passing, it was clear that the barn and the Rambles would continue. But, of course, there are bills to pay. So last night at the Izod Center, a monumental group of performers—those who had worked with the Band, performed with Helm or appeared at one of those fabled Rambles—gathered to pay tribute to the musical icon and help raise money to finally pay off the barn.

There were far too many talented people involved to list everyone, but the night started with a bang as Warren Haynes, backed by the Dirt Farmer Band, did a rousing version of “The Shape I’m In” before Gregg Allman joined him for a riveting “Long Black Veil.” From there a cavalcade of stars, including Bruce Hornsby, Jorma Kaukonen, Marc Cohn, the Wallflowers and Allen Toussaint, appeared. Lucinda Williams said, “God bless, Levon Helm. His spirit lives on,” after concluding “Whispering Pines.” And then the fist set closed with John Hiatt and Mike Gordon doing a lively “Rag Mama Rag.”

And while that first set was particularly great, the second one was something special. Highlights included Ray LaMontagne and John Mayer on “Tears of Rage,” the Dierks Bentley–led “Chest Fever,” with Garth Hudson laying down the winding “Genetic Method” organ intro, and Larry Campbell eliciting a big crowd response to the “Drink all day, rock all night” line in “Tennessee Jed” as Mayer rode shotgun on guitar. Then somehow the ante got upped once again. First, a jammy “Up on Cripple Creek” with Joe Walsh and Robert Randolph (“Jersey boys are here,” proclaimed Walsh), and then the house band ceded the stage to My Morning Jacket.

The five-piece launched into “Ophelia,” with the crowd throatily singing along, and “It Makes No Difference” before bringing out Roger Waters and G.E. Smith for “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down.” Of course all of this was just a lead up to the night’s inevitable conclusion, everyone onstage for “The Weight.” Longtime Levon Helm Band members Campbell, Teresa Williams and Amy Helm rightfully took the first verse, accompanied only by Campbell’s guitar. And then Mavis Staples sang, and then Allman and Haynes. And then Grace Potter, Eric Church, John Prine, Jim James and everyone else took turns trading verses across the stage, before turning to Waters, center stage, singing, “You know I’m a peaceful man,” with smiles everywhere. It was hard to tell who was having more fun, the people in the crowd or those onstage. It was just one of those nights. —R. Zizmor | @Hand_Dog

Photos courtesy of Joe Papeo | www.irocktheshot.com


Four Chances to See the Legendary Lucinda Williams

August 3rd, 2012

Lucinda Williams is a legend. She’s been making blues, country, folk and rock music for nearly 35 years, but it took some time for Williams to get her due. It was 1998’s Car Wheels on a Gravel Road, the Louisiana native’s fifth LP, that put her on the map, taking Williams (above, playing “Fruits of My Labor” for AOL Sessions) beyond the cult following of musicians and critics and dropping her firmly into the mainstream. But she’s not one to rest on her laurels or look back too much—her 10th studio album, the well-received Blessed, came out last year. And as always, Williams remains an electric performer, which works out great because next week you’ll have four chances to see her perform: at The Bowery Ballroom on Monday and Tuesday and at Music Hall of Williamsburg on Thursday and Friday.


Lucinda Williams Takes No Prisoners

July 21st, 2011

Lucinda Williams – The Wellmont Theatre – July 20, 2011

(Photo: Getty Images)

Last night after a rousing performance by singer-songwriter Amos Lee, whose smooth, soulful voice resonated within the expansive Wellmont Theatre, Lucinda Williams began her set with some upbeat numbers from 1998’s Car Wheels on a Gravel Road, her band getting right into the groove. Williams seemed to be feeling pretty good, swaying as she listened to the twang of the guitar and driving drum beat.

After rocking for a few more songs, Williams introduced the song “Copenhagen,” acknowledging that it was written to address her shock and sadness at the death of her longtime manager, who passed away when she was touring in Denmark. Befitting our New Jersey setting, Williams also took a moment to acknowledge the recent passing of Clarence Clemons of the E Street Band before beginning to sing the song’s earnest and poignant lyrics, adorned with a beautiful solo from guitarist Blake Mills. As the song rang through the venue, the large space began to feel charged, heavy with the sentiments of the tune—a reflective moment not just for those onstage, but perhaps for many in the audience as well. Williams followed the song with a duet with Lee, the sweet and nostalgic “Little Angel, Little Brother,” afterward joking, “We’re gonna make y’all cry, then we’re gonna take y’all up.”

Indeed, the sad songs kept coming, with renditions of “Fruits of My Labor,” “Born to Be Loved” and “Unsuffer Me,” the last of which showed Williams at her most raw, her palms outstretched toward the sky as she sang, as if providing an offering. Of course, true to her word, Williams did take us up again and ended the show with versions of “Honeybee,” “Joy” and “Changed the Locks,” songs that all perfectly depict her signature swagger and take-no-prisoners attitude. By the night’s end, the only constant among the full range of subjects and styles within the music was that incredible voice of hers. Whether upbeat or weighty, Williams always manages to powerfully convey the range of emotions within her music. —Alena Kastin

(Lucinda Williams and Amos Lee play the Beacon Theatre tonight.)


Lucinda Williams Displays Talent and the Truth

March 14th, 2011

Lucinda Williams – Webster Hall – March 11, 2011

Lucinda Williams - Webster Hall - March 11, 2011

On Friday, at the first of her two sold-out shows at Webster Hall, Lucinda Williams’ performance reinforced some important truths for her fans. The first, and perhaps most important, was that whether dipping into roots-y country and blues (“Get Right with God”), sweetly harmonized country (“Fruits of My Labor”) or Americana-infused roughly hewn rock songs (“Real Live Bleeding Fingers and Broken Guitar Strings”), the prolific singer-songwriter shifts gears effortlessly; and her distinctive, emotional voice rose to the occasion for each song.

In addition to this display of her singular talent, Williams conveyed another equally compelling reminder throughout the show. “This is another song about another beautiful loser,” she remarked, smirking, of “Drunken Angel,” referencing her penchant for eviscerating no-good men in her songs. When introducing “Buttercup,” from her new record, Blessed, she joked, “This is the only bad-boy song on the new album…. I still have a little bit left in my system.” And as she introduced “Jailhouse Tears,” Williams was quick to point out that, yes, it’s about the same guy. In summary: If you do Lucinda Williams wrong, she will not let you off the hook without a song (or a few), as the set list pointed out.

Of course, it would be shortsighted to classify Lucinda Williams’ extensive catalog as full of songs all about heartbreak. One of her many strengths as a songwriter is the way she can infuse even the most downtrodden tale with strength, confidence and power—never bitterness. On Friday night, this unique quality of her music was underscored as the band began the encore with the title track off Blessed, where Williams’ straightforward lyrics provide a sweet reminder of the many things to be thankful for in this often crazy, messed up world. —Alena Kastin

Photo courtesy of Gregg Greenwood | www.gregggreenwood.com