Lucinda Williams comfortably sported leather boots, tight black jeans, a flowing, silk violet blouse and blonde tresses beneath a tapered, black, cowboy hat under the stars Tuesday night at Jannus Landing in St. Petersburg. The queen of alt-country and roots rock strummed her acoustic six-string while allowing her impassioned vocals to flow effortlessly through the microphone and wash across the 3,000-plus admirers standing in the cool, autumn air before her.
Williams began the evening with a pair of up-tempo songs from her 1998 Grammy winning album Car Wheels on a Gravel Road and then brought the crowd to a silent standstill with “Blue,” a country dirge oozing with emotion that Williams included on her latest release Essence. When she sang the verse, “So go to confession / whatever gets you through / You can count your blessings / I’ll just count on blue,” it seemed to resonate with every member in the audience as if a Biblical prophet had just delivered the word of God.
Following an extended introduction, wherein a smiling Williams gave props to not only her entire band, but the roadies and sound crew as well, the venerable singer/songwriter broke into, “2 Kool to Be 4-gotten,” another rocker from Car Wheels and finally appeared to be truly reveling in the fact that there were several thousand beaming faces looking at her.
The vast majority of songs performed were from Williams’ last two albums, the only exception being a scorching version of, “Changed the Locks,” which originally appeared on Williams’ 1988 self-titled release.
Other highlights included a drop-down, jam-intensive take on her latest single, “Get Right With God,” in which Williams sings, “I would risk the serpent’s bit / I would kiss the diamond back / If I knew it would get me to heaven,” with all the fervor of a first-rate Pentecostal preacher.
On “Joy,” Williams let her airtight band, which includes players formerly associated with artists such as Dwight Yoakam, John Prine and Greg Brown cut loose and show off their chops.After Williams & Co. had disembarked from the stage, ace lead guitarist Bo Ramsey, an Iowa native who shuns the Nashville establishment and has played on and co-produced, Williams’ last two albums, stood in his navy blue pinstripe western suit, dark glasses and cowboy hat and chatted for a few minutes in a low, raspy drawl.
“I met Lucinda in 1992. She heard one of my cds in New Zealand, of all places, liked it and gave me a call,” said Ramsey. “She’s wonderful to work with. An intensely beautiful person, an old soul and a great songwriter.”
Tuesday night, under puffs of clouds and the southern stars, Williams offered one of the most potent performances this area has seen since, well, since Williams ignited the Landing’s stage three years ago.
- All selections by Wade Tatangelo unless otherwise noted. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.