The term “Americana” gets thrown around loosely by music critics hunting and pecking for a convenient catchall to convey that crossroads where the roots of country, rock, folk, R&B, soul, and blues become entangled and break through the pavement of each other’s conventions. In the case of singer/songwriter Lucinda Williams, who will grace the stage of the Lobero Theatre this Friday, March 6, there is no better way to describe her sound. In fact, she may just be the perfect embodiment of said precarious genre.
The back-road career path of the Louisiana-born poet’s daughter (her father was renowned writer Miller Williams) has been a paced grind. She began as an early ’70s, upstart singer/songwriter enamored of Townes Van Zandt and then blossomed into a recording artist, albeit one who survived in relative obscurity for nearly 20 years. Then came the breakthrough: 1998’s Car Wheels on a Gravel Road, the heartland and heartbreak-informed masterpiece that finally garnered Williams worldwide critical acclaim, commercial success, and even a Grammy to boot.
The praise has more or less endured, with Williams releasing a steady flow of strong records ever since. Time magazine named her “America’s Best Songwriter” in 2002, and she’s fully deserved each of the three Grammy awards she’s won along the way, yet she still possesses an endearing outsider status.
Williams has always been somewhat of a buried national treasure, discovered and shared among music lovers like a best-kept secret. Her voice is beautiful yet flawed just enough to prove its authenticity, set to music that evokes a Stonesy swagger softened by Southern nuance. Her songs are like vignettes depicting the sweet imperfections of life and love, populated by hopeful characters that would feel hopeless and homeless anywhere else.
Now at age 61, Williams is showing no sign of slowing down. She’s now touring in support of her excellent new 20-song double LP, Down Where the Spirit Meets the Bone, her 11th studio album and first to be released on her own label, Highway 20 Records. Whether or not you consider yourself an Americana fan, she’s not to be missed. For tickets and info, call (805) 963-0761 or visit lobero.com.