American singer songwriter and guitarist Lucinda Williams rocked a performance of her
twenty-year-old country, rock, blues masterpiece album Car Wheels on a Gravel Road at
London’s Barbican on Saturday night. Fans gave her not one, not two, but three standing
ovations after being invited into the confessional to hear the secrets that sparked the songs that had flown from her pen. “I’ll be talking more in depth about the songs than I normally do and revealing a few secrets along the way,” she said shyly.
We learnt she was the kid with the dirty tear stained face in the backseat of the car that
inspired the title track, the dumped and wanting lover (in Grammy nominated Can’t Let Go and Still I Long For Your Kiss), the friend of a fast living musician who died too young
(Drunken Angel), and so the highs and lows of her life tumbled on into her songs.
And her voice, oh her voice, beautifully complemented by her talented band: Stuart
Mathis (guitars); David Sutton (bass); and Butch Norton (drums). At one of the toughest
times in my life one of the few people to hold me up through the pain was Lucinda Williams and her achy, broken voice singing of heart-breaking loss and betrayal that found resonance with my own suffering.
Lucinda gave us a glimpse into a gifted artist at work. She demonstrated through her life, illustrated with video clips and photos on a big screen, how she transcended her own pain to create an album of distinction. We all go through highs and lows but few people have the talent to not only turn a negative into a positive but create art that gives strength and hope to others. It isn’t hard to work out why it took so long for this woman with the heart of a punk to find a musical home in a record label. After all, it’s not easy to neatly define women who live their lives on their terms. And, of course, she was also busy living. For that, we should all be grateful.