(GREAT BARRINGTON, Mass., and POUGHKEEPSIE, N.Y.) – Three time Grammy Award-winner Lucinda Williams bookends our region with back-to-back concerts at the Mahaiwe in Great Barrington on Saturday, October 10, at 8pm, and at the Bardavon in Poughkeepsie on Sunday, October 11, at 7pm. Williams has been one of the most consistently lauded Americana singer-songwriters, incorporating rock, folk, and country into her achingly personal lyrics, since her eponymous debut in 1988. Her 1998 album, “Car Wheels on a Gravel Road,” is considered one of the greatest albums of the rock era.
Williams recorded her first albums in 1978 and 1980 in a traditional country and blues style and received very little attention from radio, the media, or the public. In 1988, she released her self-titled album, “Lucinda Williams,” which featured “Passionate Kisses,” a song later recorded by Mary Chapin Carpenter and which garnered Williams her first Grammy Award, for Best Country Song, in 1994.
Known for working slowly, Williams recorded and released only one other album in the next several years (“Sweet Old World,” in 1992) before her greatest success came in 1998 with “Car Wheels on a Gravel Road.” This album presented a broader scope of songs that fused rock, blues, country, and Americana into a more distinctive style that still managed to remain consistent and commercial in sound. It went gold and earned Williams another Grammy, while being universally acclaimed by critics. Williams toured with Bob Dylan and on her own in support of the album.
Williams followed up the success of “Car Wheels” with “Essence” (2001). This release featured a less produced, more down-tuned approach both musically and lyrically, and moved Williams further from the country music establishment while winning fans in the alternative music world. She won the 2001 Grammy Award for Best Female Rock Performance for the single “Get Right With God”, an atypically uptempo gospel-rock tune from the otherwise rather low-key release. The title track includes a contribution on Hammond organ by alternative country musician Ryan Adams.
Her seventh album, “World Without Tears,” was released in 2003. A musically adventurous though lyrically downbeat album, this release found Williams experimenting with talking blues stylings and electric blues. In 2006, Williams recorded a version of the John Hartford classic “Gentle On My Mind”, which played over the closing credits of the Will Ferrell film “Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby.” Williams was a guest vocalist on the song “Factory Girls” from Irish punk-folk band Flogging Molly’s 2004 album, “Within a Mile of Home”, and appeared on Elvis Costello’s “The Delivery Man.” She sings with folk legend Ramblin’ Jack Elliott on the track “Careless Darling” from his 2006 release “I Stand Alone”.
In 2007, Williams released “West,” for which she wrote more than 27 songs. The album was released on February 13, 2007. It addresses her mother’s death and a tumultuous relationship break-up. Vanity Fair praised it, saying “Lucinda Williams has made the record of a lifetime – part Hank Williams, part Bob Dylan, part Keith Richards circa Exile on Main St. …”
In the fall of 2007, Williams announced an unprecedented series of shows in Los Angeles and New York. Playing five nights in each city, it was the first time a major artist would perform her entire catalog on consecutive nights. These albums include the self titled Lucinda Williams, Sweet Old World, Car Wheels on a Gravel Road, Essence, and World Without Tears. Since these shows, other artists have imitated this idea in different variations, but to date no else has accomplished this exact feat.
Each night also featured a second set with special guest stars. Some of the many special guests included Steve Earle, Allison Moorer, Mike Campbell, Greg Dulli, E, Ann Wilson, Emmylou Harris, David Byrne, David Johansen, Yo La Tengo, John Doe, Chuck Prophet, Jim Lauderdale and Shelby Lynne. In addition, each night’s album set was recorded and made available to the attendees that night. These live recordings are currently available on her website, lucindawilliams.com, and at her shows.
Her 2014 release, “Down Where the Spirit Meets The Bone,” the first release on Lucinda Williams’ own Highway 20 Records label, is easily the most ambitious creation in a body of work that’s long on ambition. Over the course of two discs, Williams leaves no emotional crevice left unexplored, drinking deeply from a well of inspiration that culminates with an offering that overflows with delta-infused country soul.