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Williams brings the joy back

The Paradise, Boston, November 5, 2018

Reviewed by Jeffrey B. Remz

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It's not as if Lucinda Williams has been idle. Far from it this year, but 20 years on, Williams decided to trot out her masterpiece "Car Wheels on a Gravel Road" as the centerpiece of her tour. Music and artist have held up exceedingly well.

Williams had always been a well thought of performer, although she was not too big when it came to touring earlier in her career.

But that was a long time ago, and when you put out music as good as "Car Wheels," you'd better stand behind it.

Williams played the disc in its entirety following the exact sequencing on the album, something the audience said they agreed with when queried by Williams. That meant starting with the driving "Right in Time" all the way through "Jackson" with such chestnuts as "Drunken Angel" about the late singer Blaze Foley, Randy Weeks' "Can't Let Go," "Metal Firecracker" and the sprawling "Joy."

They all sounded fresh and current. When you add a few lyrics about wanting love and peace in the world as she did on "Joy" with a crescendoing intensity, it's easy to see why the disc has stood the test of time so so well.

Williams was particularly chatty - seemingly surprising herself about how much she talked. With her thick Louisiana drawl, she offered background to the songs with a series of them dedicated to long past boyfriends, who may have been into drinking a tad too much. But at least she received cooking lessons from one of them, finding out how to make pimento cheese.

She opined how relevant "Concrete and Barbed Wire" remains today. Inspired by the fall of the Berlin Wall, Williams referenced plans to build a wall at the U.S. border by President Trump.

Williams was most capably supported by her backing trio, Buick 6, which typically is an instrumental LA-based band. The trio has long supported Williams, and it showed. Guitarist Stuart Mathis was the star with numerous, well-considered guitar runs ("Get Right With God") that supplemented, but never overwhelmed.

Williams played a variety of songs from throughout her career during the second half of the generous 145-minute show, including the always searing "Changed the Locks." Williams closed the night out with a spirited version of Bruce Springsteen's "The Rising."

The show was the second of three times that Williams plays Boston this year. First, there was the LSD tour with Steve Earle and Dwight Yoakam this summer. Next moth is a gig singing with jazzman Charles Lloyd & The Marvels. On this night, hearing Williams going back in time with a career gem brought the joy. We were all glad to have her back.