23 May 2007

Venus in Black and Blue

".... She lit a burner on the stove and offered me a pipe
'I thought you'd never say hello,' she said
'You look like the silent type.'
Then she opened up a book of poems
And handed it to me
Written by an Italian poet
From the thirteenth century.
And every one of them words rang true
And glowed like burnin' coal
Pourin' off of every page
Like it was written in my soul, from me to you,
Tangled up in blue. ...."
(-- Bob Dylan, from Tangled Up in Blue,
Copyright (c) 1974 Ram's Horn Music)

I realize now why I had to wait until I was 50 -and it took me three weeks of listening write this -- to merit this album. Until this year, I wouldn't have been ready for Lucinda Williams' stunning Live at the Fillmore (2003); for a "into-posts" to this one, see Desire is the Root of All Suffering and The Truth on the Spirituality of Love.

The stellar band members on these three magic nights at the renovated Fillmore [West] are Lucinda Williams (vocals, acoustic and electric guitar), Doug Pettibone (lead guitar, pedal and lap steel guitars, mandolin, harmonica and background vocals), Taras Prodaniuk (bass guitar and background vocals) and Jim Christie (drums, percussion, and keys). All songs written by Lucinda Williams.

* * * * *

Perfect Roots

Ever the humble auteur, Eric Clapton once spoke of Duane Allman as having "perfect roots". Indeed, while both men excelled and focused on American blues, focusing on the roots-blues, Eric was playing catch-up. Clapton is from Ripley, Surrey, England. Duane was born in Nashville, Tennessee; he moved to Daytona Beach, Florida when he was 11 years old.

Lucinda Williams also has perfect roots. Born in Southwest Louisiana, specifically Lake Charles in Calcasieu Parish, she grew up in a world swirling with the music of Clifton Chenier, Willie Nelson, Bob Dylan, and Hank Williams, Sr., to give you just a taste of the gumbo of her musical environment. And to top those roots off, her father is acclaimed poet Miller Williams, best known for his poem The Shrinking Lonesome Sestina.


Lucinda's Fillmore Tracks:

As there is not one weak track on either of these two compact discs.

The following notes on the album tracks are modeled after similar ones in the liner notes to
The Bootleg Series, Vols. 1-3 : Rare And Unreleased, 1961-1991 [BOX SET] by Bob Dylan.
(Italicised song titles start each track entry below; all songs are Lucinda Williams compositions -- lyric quotes are her lyric-poetry unless otherwise noted.)

Disc One: From a Heartache to a Wildfire


This set opener is a three-quarter time C&W acoustic blues lullaby -- a prayer to get ".... her power back to drown this unholiness ...".

The chorus is:

"... I wanna watch the ocean bend
The edges of the sundown

I wanna get swallowed up

In an ocean of love ....".

Doug Pettibone's
pedal steel guitar fills are forebodingly superb.

* * * * *
Reason to Cry

Another touching Country & Western poetic gem; Doug apparently adds a little distortion to his pedal steel work -- a tricky but well executed innovation.

* * * * *
Fruits of My Labor

And here she comes -- more "hard bark" in her vocal than a Marine hittin' a hot LZ (i.e. landing zone) in Nam.

And Lucinda Williams, unlike Bob Dylan, has some vocal range to her melodies.

It's rapidly becoming apparent, as Lucinda says, later, after Essence, talkin' 'bout the band, that 'they got their Mojo workin' tonight'.

* * * * *
Out of Touch

Another hint of things to come: this one's a can't-help-but-tap-your-foot slow rocker.

* * * * *

Sweet Side

4 stars -- this one is so deep, so rich, that even my preacher neighbor across the hall, who listens to nothing but classical and gospel music, came out his door with a smile singin' along with the record blasting in our hall "... you don't always show your sweet side....". Her voice has turned from "hard bark" to angry lover. But no lyric poetry or instrumentation spoilers from me -- for that you gotta check out this track for yourself, or it's your loss, baby.

* * * * *
Lonely Girls

Easin' back on the throttle. Another three-quarter time acoustic sad, sweet lament, but this one a poetic shot of dry, sweet, sad Old Grand Dad.

Her song writing pattern is starting to emerge: one-summation-line repeated choruses and then, using Dylan's theory -- every line thereafter has got to be as good as the first one.

"Heavy blankets Cover Lonely Girls ...."

She takes a simple descriptive phrase and kick-starts your imagination with poetic imagery. Which is what all great singer-songwriters do, even the ones deliverin' pizzas in Nashville and Austin.

* * * * *

Not unlike Emmylou Harris' album Wrecking Ball, not only will it take me a year to plum the depths of this one, but also, now, I've got school-boy crushes on three of my teachers: Joni Mitchell, Emmylou, and Lucinda Williams.

And I'll never be worthy to Court and Spark any of them. I'll be a lonely boy the rest of my days.

* * * * *


"Go find the Jukebox, and
See what a quarter will do
I don't wanna talk
I just wanna, go back to blue

Picture yourself slow-dancin' in a smokey East Texas bar-room with your soon-to-be-next-ex-lover. And you're there.

* * * * *
Changed the Locks

5 stars with a bullet!

"Out of the blue"
"and into the black",
(-- Neil Young)

'[A] woman's wolf'-growl can be heard at that drunken fool that "he has trashed her life for the last time".'

This is the version of the tune that sent me from the cable Music Choice Americana channel to Amazon.com to buy my first Lucinda Williams album, after countless years of wanting one.

From Ms. Williams' repertoire, this song is the functional equivalent of Keith Richards' (Don't You) Take It So Hard.

* * * * *


A Biblical / Punk Slash and Burn -- shades of Patti Smith.

"....Come on, Come on, Come on
Kill the rats in the gutter
Sings the voice in the choir
Bring your Father and your Mother
Sing it higher and higher"

"Shake the clammy hand
Repeat the 23rd psalm
Make you understand
Where it was you went wrong"

"Voices from tapes
Shouting with twisted tongues
Emotional rape
Hell fire scorched lungs ....
[Emphasis added.]"

Psalm 23

A Psalm of David.

The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures;
He leads me beside still waters;
He restores my soul. He leads me in right paths for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I fear no evil; for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff— they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies;
You anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord
my whole life long.

While Ms. Williams mixes in a heavy dose of C&W blue lullaby, Lucinda ends Disc One of Live at the Fillmore with Atonement, a Dylan-gone-electric-and-violent from 1966 rocker, with multi-instrumentalist Doug Pettibone doin' a couple mean SRV-esqe guitar solos. Poetry on fire, slashin' and burning your spiritual farm:
Tom Joad's family ".... tractored out by the 'Cats'" (.i.e. Caterpillar Tractors;
lyric by Woody Guthrie based on the John Ford film of the John Steinbeck novel The Grapes of Wrath).

* * * * * * * * * *
* * * * * * * * * *

Disc Two:
The Blaze is too Intense to Fight Now, Then Charred Calm

* * * * *
I Lost It

Five star lyrics and vocal from Lucinda -- my life, again, but younger:

... I just wanna live the life I please
I don't want no enemies
I don't want nothin if I have to fake it
Never take nothin don't belong to me
Everything's paid for, nothin's free
If I give my heart, will you promise not to break it? ..."

* * * * *

".... Sonny shot hisself with a .44 ...." -- the flip-side suicide ballad to her Sweet Old World. A pure plea to the Other Side about This Side -- 'the look in the eyes, of her mother and her sister, in Pineola, where the narrator's brother killed himself.'

Brutal for anyone who's been there.

* * * * *

Perfect, subtle wah-wah fills and more wild-fire-in-a-canyou electric solos from Doug.

by Lucinda Williams
"You don't have to prove
Your manhood to me constantly
I know you're the man can't you see
I love you Righteously

Why you wanna dis' me
After the way you been kissin' me
After those pretty things you say
And the love we made today?

Why you run your hand
All up and run it back down my leg
Get excited and bite my neck
Get me all worked up like that?

Think this through
I laid it down for you everytime
Respect me I give you what's mine
You're entirely way too fine

Arms around my waist
You get a taste of how good this can be
Be the man you ought to, tenderly
Stand up for me

Flirt with me don't keep hurtin' me
Don't cause me pain
Be my lover don't play no game
Just play me John Coltrane."

* * * * *

"You took my joy, and I want it back!"

ach bandmember raises his or her own level through their live interaction. Much as Slowhand, Skydog and Bobby did on The Layla Sessions.

* * * * *

More slow, electric ember-fire-of-love"
'the embers lasting longer than the flame'

(--Shades this time of
Leon Russell's additional verse when he covers Wild Horses (Stones.)

The song closes with a medium-lenth jam that caresses Lucinda's last verse closing; this tune's a rhapsody.

* * * * *
Real Live Bleeding Fingers and Broken Guitar Strings

Here Lucinda out-does what Chrissie Hynde and The Pretenders create with Mystery Achievement.

Indeed, that Pretenders disc referred to above was cut about the same time a
s a real life story on topic: bassist's Tina Weymouth (Talking Heads, Tom-Tom Club) was playing CBGB's in NYC until very late one night. On stage, Tina's fingers began to bleed down the neck of her Fender bass because they had played so long -- the crowd: they thought it was part of the punk show and loved it.

Five stars with a bullet!

* * * * *
Are You Down (With That?)

Straight up jazz blues -- DougPettibone doin' Larry Carlton.

" ... Can't force the river upstream

When it flows south
Know what I meeean?
Nothin' will make me take you back
Are you down, baby,
Down with
thaaat? ..."

He's gone -- quickly 'driftin' down that road'; 'resting' only so 'he can get up' and 'drift farther along. (Thanks to W. Guthrie and John Entwhistle)

* * * * *
Those Three Days

Don't send your kids to this graduate seminar on a love-eternal that
lasts just Those Three Days (i.e. Parental Advisory on lyrics).

More slow, electric, coal-fire burn of love --shades again of
Leon Russell.

* * * * *
American Dream

A classic "needle and the damage done" nightmare come to life -- "The Man in Black" is smilin' down on Lucinda.

* * * * *
World Without Tears

And we circle back to where the set started: a three-quarter time acoustic quartet -- straight from her mind and vocals to your heart.

* * * * *
Bus to Baton Rouge

Her hometown of Lake Charles being just a little piece of delta to the southwest of the capital, Lucinda would know -- this one is about that ache of love-lost-and-gone forever.; and now I've learned that Williams and Willie Nelson covered this turf from similar perspectives.

Ms. Williams and Willie Nelson ramble similar roads about 200 miles from each other. And that's just about how wide, culturally, the Southwest Louisiana / East Texas border is. Willie's song I Just Drove By tells the same story with different poetic facts.

* * * * *
World's Fell

"... with the silence of the roses."

".... Everything is wrong, Everything is wrong."

A perfect set closer. Soft, sad lullaby settlin' down the crowd and helpin' the band decompress. Pedal steel by Doug that will steal your heart --Texas blues that are the yin to Janis' yang.

* * * * *


Taken as a whole, the three nights of gigs from which this album is culled, I'm sure, was note-perfect. Everything on the two discs discussed -- the writing, singin', pickin', arrangements, rhythm, everything -- is Just Like Heaven.

Bottom line
: the two best touring bands, right now, in the world: for gospel and dobro, it's Allison Krauss and Union Station.

For it all in one package -- Joni to Chrissie, with world class lead guitar -- Lucinda Williams, Dougie, T., and Jimmy are the best touring band on the planet.

".... Are you down with that? ...."

5 stars with 6 bullets from a Magnum Force side arm
(Empty, shell casings -- hot and smelling of powder)


MOM said...

I am very impressed!

Paco Malo said...

Thank you.

Paullinator said...


I'd like to challenge you to rewrite the review in narrative form -- to tell us a story, even THE story, if you can. How do the roots of the music, and her history as a musician play in the lyrics and score to yield an impact on the direction of the genre, her music, her life, and our lives -- or your life.

Where is this coming from and where is it taking us/her/you?

How did she get to the Fillmore -- playing in a pantheon of venues? And, why should we visit her there? The tracks of the album may not coalesce into an obvious thematic view, but we need to find the pattern. What does it tell you, where does that leave us?

I know you aren't travelling with the band. But there's a tale to be told here. You draw upon rock references galore, but the free associations to this musical history are given one song at a time. What ties it together? What's Clapton got to do with it? Why do we care that you hear Leon Russell in her fiery embers of love? The reason is left unsaid.

The blood is on your fingers --dripping down the pen. Make us buy into it.

Paco Malo said...

There is a French trational folk song that sums it up best: Emmylou Harris' cover of

Plaisir D'Amour

(Traditional with arrangement By Emmylou Harris & Kate McGarrigie & Anna McGarrigie)

Plaisir d'amour
Ne dure qu'un moment
Chagrin d'amour dure
Toute la vie

Joys of love
Are but a moment long
Pain of love endures
The whole life long

This band, at the Fillmore in 2003, is audio Van Gogh. It is a tapestry of the vital threads of almost all the music that can still change the world.

(Sure there's a book here -- but I'm already in the middle of writing one.)

David said...

Saw her at the House of Blues Orlando during the Car Wheels tour. All very good, but "Joy." Joy was a revelation. A rave up. An aural orgasm. It was stunning. And it lasted about 15 minutes and seemed too short.

I like "Live @ the Filmore" o.k. but listen to an Audacity burn of the "Live From Austin, TX" DVD more.

Nice blog.

Paco Malo said...

David, thanks for your comment.

The depths of the rock poetry, and band locking, in both "Joy" and "Essence" from this record are currentlty blowing me away.


'Go to Slidell
Find our Joy
And her Essense'.

I will definitely check out the Austin DVD you recommend.

'Peace, Love, Revolution,'


sexy said...
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