Lucinda Williams sure is a good singer/songwriter, garnering lots of well-deserved critical acclaim for her ability to paint aural pictures with her text. As she noted during her show Wednesday night, "I write songs. I write story songs."
This was evidenced by "Rescue," the first song of the evening, where things start out in rather depressing fashion before ending with a twist. The opening line states: "He can't rescue you/ Can't pull the demons from your head." Who knew that seven stanzas later, after all the things "he" can't do for "you" are enumerated, the whole song turns on the lines, "What can he do?/ But tie some ribbons in your hair/and show you that he'll always care?"
One of the Americana genre's most influential performers, Williams hews closer to the country music side of things these days without totally eschewing the blues-based riffs of earlier years when, "I Asked for Water (He Gave Me Gasoline)" was in her set list. She still touches on audience favorites like "Fruits of My Labor," "Lake Charles" and "Pineola," from prior albums, but with a new album to promote, the pedal steel guitar on stage loomed large even when it wasn't being played.
All evening long, when Williams needed a little instrumental excitement to pick up the mood, guitarist Doug Pettibone was there to whip off short, succinct guitar solos that blazed with barely contained energy. The rhythm section of bassist David Sutton and drummer Don Heffington provided a solid foundation for Williams' verbal flights and Pettibone's instrumental ones.
And, let's face it, the audience was a presold group of admirers who've followed Williams' career for a long time. As she noted during the concert, one of her friends told her that "it says a lot about your popularity" that the house was so full when there was such an important hockey game being played.
Carrie Rodriguez is on this portion of the Lucinda Williams tour, and anyone who missed her set in favor of arriving fashionably late missed a consistently interesting singer/songwriter/violinist whose stage persona and overall musical skills were impressive.
How impressive? During the intermission, the line in front of the tour merchandising table was crammed with folks wanting to pick up Rodriguez's first album, "Seven Angels on a Bicycle," based solely on her and her band's performance minutes earlier.
Wednesday night in the UB Center for the Arts.