Lucinda Williams, Under Many Influences

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Lucinda Williams is more than a little bit country and more than a little bit rock-and-roll. More specifically, she's a little Hank Williams, a little John Coltrane, a little Chet Baker and a little Loretta Lynn.

Those were the influences she name-checked halfway through her marvelous 100-minute set Sunday night at Wolf Trap, and you could hear the ghosts of all of them -- even Lynn, who is, you know, not dead-- hovering in the rafters as Williams took her sweet time working through a program that largely eschewed the hits in favor of whatever she felt like playing.

So: a half-dozen songs from this year's fine "West" album, including the slow-burning opener, "Rescue," and later, the pairing of "Mama You Sweet" and "Fancy Funeral." That somber twofer prompted Williams to call for the upbeat "I Lost It," "because I don't want everybody to be crying in their beers," she said. "Well, actually I do."

A lack of momentum was the gig's only flaw. That isn't surprising given Williams's notorious, unhurried perfectionism -- one of the reasons it took her until her mid-40s to become a star with 1998's Grammy-winning "Car Wheels on a Gravel Road."

Charlie Louvin opened the show with a trip through one of the most remarkable songbooks in country music.

It was a testament to his influence that many of the songs he performed ("Must You Throw Dirt in My Face," "Atomic Power," "The Christian Life") were familiar from several subsequent generations of musicians having played them.

Louvin sang soulfully for an hour -- generous for an opener and astonishing for a man who celebrated his 80th birthday earlier this month. "The Christian Life," indeed.

-- Chris Klimek

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