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Williams looks to the positive

The Paradise, Boston, March 22, 2016

Reviewed by Jeffrey B. Remz

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Lucinda Williams started on a somber note. She dedicated the opening song, "World Without Tears" to the victims of the Brussels terrorist bombing attacks earlier that day. The crowd was pin-drop quiet, intent on hearing singer and song with lines like "If we lived in a world without tears/How would bruises find/The face to lie upon."

Label that an appropriate start of two hours of country - although not so much of that, rock, rootsy, often blues-veering material, and lots of well-written songs.

Those in the crowd who had gone the previous night (this was the second of two sold-out shows in a great venue for Williams, a 930-capacity club setting) would have been for an almost entirely different set of songs, which underscored the fact that Williams is an artist with a deep, extensive and worthy catalogue.

She sang with a distinct drawl, sometimes not enunciating all that clearly and a bit worn on a few songs, but Williams also knew how to wring the intensity out of the words. As usual, that was perhaps most evident in her closing number of the regular set, "Joy" where you feel her pain. Yet, this was not a downer of a night, but more the chance to hear one of music's finest.

Curiously, Williams could not be accused of plugging her new, self-released disc, "The Ghosts of Highway 20" all that much. She only played 2 of the 14 songs (same as Monday night). It's not clear why because the album stands up with a lot of worthy material about life in the south where she grew up.

Williams also played the title track solo acoustic and did a few songs with slight help from her backing band, Buick 6. Good move as it stood up well next to the more rocking sounds.

Williams offered the title track, focusing on life in Macon, Ga., where she once lived. Williams also played "Dust," a song with lyrics courtesy of her father, the late poet Miller, who she remembered fondly. Williams recounted how he introduced her to Southern Gothic writer Flannery O'Connor, who became a big influence on her writing.

Williams stretched out on the encore with a soulful cover of Sam Cooke's "A Change is Gonna Come" (while not heavy on politics, Williams opined that the audience knew where she stood) and a cover of The Clash's "Should I Stay Or Should I Go?" more of an ode to a band she apparently liked.

That was before she closed the night with "Get Right With God," which seemed to bookend with what started the show. The terror of the day turned into settling with one's Maker.

Buick Six opened the evening with an extremely sturdy opening set of almost all instrumentals. They were a big sounding trio, made for bigger venues with songs that tended to display a healthy dose of musical muscle.

Buick 6 also proved to be a most worthy backing band for Williams, particularly the stellar guitar work of Stuart Matthis, who played steely lines and slide, all to excellent effect. These guys worked hard all night long. So did Williams, who was clearly delighted with the reception from her fans. The night may have started with a difficult song, but when all was said and done, Williams looked to the positive.