I went to see one of my all time favorite singer-songwriters last week.
None other than the great Lucinda Williams, performing with her band Buick 6.
From the first note, Buick 6 dynamically dug in, with sweltering highs and forestalling lows; Lucinda’s voice, front and center, brought each song to life.
Williams stood center stage, appearing vulnerable, and without a guitar. In November 2020, Williams suffered a stroke which affected the left side of her body, leaving her unable to play guitar.
Though it was sad for me to see her without her Gibson J-45 in hand, I felt that the act of not playing guitar perhaps freed her mind to focus fully on the task at hand – singing the sh*t out of the songs. And that, she did.
Williams’ Louisiana drawl is known for its distinct character, and her vocals shook the audience to their core as they reverberated off of the wood and steel of the Haw River Ballroom, a venue created from a repurposed Textile Mill built in the early 1900s.
She took the crowd on a voyage, playing newer songs as well as a number from the late 90’s classic, Car Wheels On A Gravel Road.
The highlight for me though, came at the end of the show, as Williams and company unleashed into a swampy bar stomp. Williams snarled:
“You can’t rule me…
You wanna go and tell me what’s good for me
You wanna tell me what I’m paying for
Well the game is fixed
It’s plain to see
I ain’t playing no more…
You can’t rule me…”
As the song came to and end, Williams introduced the next song, giving a shout out to the rock and roll legend, and her good friend, the late Tom Petty:
“This is a song that I wrote after Tom Petty passed away, which really affected me quite a bit. It’s called ‘Stolen Moments.'”
The song kicked off and the band found their footing, sinking into a classic Heartbreaker’s style rock groove.
Williams lyrics evoke a classic image of Los Angeles sunset, calling to mind Petty’s Free Fallin’.
“Driving down Sunset
I’m stuck in traffic
With the sun
Comin’ in from the west
So I cover my eyes
And I wait for the light to change
And I think about you…”
Williams recalled other “stolen moments’ – bittersweet recollections where Tom’s memory came to visit… from a backseat cab in New York City to an airplane window riding though rainbow clouds.
“Thirty thousand feet up in the air
And I swear you’re with me there
Like a prayer you’re with me there…”
The band rocked on, and as Lucinda sang for Tom, I felt it.
In a fleeting, stolen moment of my own…
Tom was there.
The songwriters respect for each other was mutual.
So much so, that Tom Petty recorded one of Lucinda’s songs, “Change The Locks,” and this past year, Lucinda recorded a full album of Tom Petty classics.
“I Won’t Back Down”