It’s how the Americana Music Association has been holding annual Grammy Eve tribute shows at the Troubadour since the mid-2010s, but never got around to honoring Lucinda Williams until this year—among the A.M.A.K. Director Jed Hilley said, “You. The voice, you the song, you’re the soul of Americana”? Perhaps simply because Americana is the rare genre of music that generally takes care of its elders, or at least looks to them first, and so previous shows in the series focused on artists with more tires on their tires. Had to walk, like Willie Nelson and, before both passed. , Loretta Lynn and John Prine. But Williams is the ultimate recipient of the kind of greeting that was hurled at her at the Troubadour on Saturday – little more than two solid hours of passionate kisses being blown at her, as she watched the mandolin live stream from home.
The predominantly female cast included highlights from this year’s two Grammy winners — Molly Tuttle, who won best bluegrass album (and was up for best new artist) and Madison Cunningham, winner for folk album. — plus Dwight Yoakam, Mumford & Sons, Alison Russell, Lucious, Brandi Clark, Sierra Ferrell, Grace Potter, Best Coast’s Bethany Cosentino, Jade Bird, Sarah and Sean Watkins, The Milk Carton Kids, Laurie McKenna, Offey O’Donovan, Brittany Spencer, Katie Pruitt and Charlie Alexander. Hickey
Introducing the next-to-last number, Joachim spoke of the uniqueness of Williams’ music, or at least a famous friend’s insistence on it. “I had a big fight with radio personality Don Ames over that song,” said Yoakam, who was asked to contribute the lyrics to a charity project. “I called him and said I want to do Lucinda Williams’ song ‘Changed the Locks.’ And he said [barking], ‘no! You’re not doing that!’ I said, Why ‘You’ll do what I tell you to do, that’s why!’ I said, ‘Well, I really want to do the Lucinda song.’ He said, ‘Nobody can do that but Lucinda Williams! So shut up and do what I told you to do!’ And after listening to me, you might agree.” But, he added, “Every Lucinda Williams song I’ve ever heard, I’ve been about the honesty of the songwriting and what it can express. I have received more information.”
And yet — perhaps not for the first or last time in his life, Imus was wrong. As hard as it can be to get Williams’ songs into your head when you’re just trying to imagine them without his specific drawings, they can turn out, with the right artist, to be wonderfully executed… And every Americana association show booked for him was the right artist. Much like Tom Petty had his way with “Changed the Locks” in the ’90s, it fits right in with Yoakam’s more hard-charging and swinging style. And on ballads, like “The Nights Too Long,” a Brandy Clarke was able to make it sound as if she, not Williams, had discovered — and possibly identified with — the singing company’s aspiring Beaumont waitress. .
In other words, in writing all these eminently coverable songs, Williams didn’t put any kind of locks on Katy Barr’s door against all the interpreters who were inevitably drawn to her, from Mary Chapin to Carpenter. In the top 10. In 1992, Malik was hit with “Passionate Kisses” by Saturday Night.
A highlight of the night, by near-universal acclaim, was the duet of the signature song “Car Wheels on a Gravel Road” by two of America’s most extraordinary young artists, Sierra Ferrell and Alison Russell. The latter singer, who hails from urban Canada, may not have heard as many rough driveways in her time as Williams, but she sings tough parenting lines, saying, “When I come back, this place Better be picked up” was probably a bit much. Extra buzz for anyone who has heard Russell sing his childhood renditions. Ferrell, a West Virginia native who dabbles with bluegrass, brings the tune closer to Inventor’s own twang, and adds a high harmony part to the chorus that gives the song an out-of-the-sticks and lift. Sent off.
There were other fantastic pairings on the show where two were considered better than one in living up to Williams’ originality, such as when Grace Potter joined forces with Brittany Spencer for the show’s opening slow-burner, Joe Nash. Will is an artist who recently signed a mainstream country deal. Being seen as a pinch hitter sitting with High Woman and others. Together, they found the funky, twinkling soul of the 1980s track “I Lost It,” in which Williams evangelized “I found it!” 70s stickers that were finally peeling off bumpers around that time.
Potter later reappears to mix vocals with Lucius’ twin harmony. (They were all wearing orange and blue suits that, as it turned out, at least according to their claims, were coincidentally bought at the same store on unrelated visits. The universe, quite frankly, is Potter. wants to join Lucius.)
The most surprising appearance on a night that didn’t advertise any of the artists in advance was Mumford & Sons, who performed as a banjo-less trio (as they did the previous night at the MusiCares dinner was, where they covered Barrett Strong’s hit “Money”) and are now tackling Williams’ “World Without Tears.” Audience members paying attention to the cameo were told that Marcus Mumford hit the floor of the Troubadour about halfway through to watch the show instead of standing backstage. “I’ve been so mesmerized, I haven’t built my guitar,” Mumford admitted as the trio attempted something they were sure to try last night at a black-tie dinner at the Caverns LA Convention Center. Didn’t: Singing and playing without nurturing. Keeping it understated was somehow fitting for one of Williams’ most poignant expressions of pure, universal pain. Seemingly justifying sorrow’s place in life, the song asks, “If we lived in a world without tears, how would scars lie?” (We see what you did there, Lucinda.)
Another song that touched on hurt, albeit with less sarcastic irony, was “Are You Okay?” was, a song that repeatedly asks the titular question of a distraught friend, perhaps hoping that person doesn’t end prematurely. Subjects such as Death, “Drunken Angel” or “Sweet Old World”. Milk Carton Kids’ “Are You Alright?” set aside his trademark between-song humor to create As quietly heartbreaking as it needs to be—and their pitch-perfect harmony showed that nothing needs to be lost when Williams’s raspier, twangier tones are replaced by something cleaner.
Most of the night’s roster was known to Americana aficionados, but the lineup included two lesser knowns who were both among the only men participating as lead singers, Charlie Hickey and Abraham Alexander. The latter artist, kicking bass drums as well as playing electric guitar, found an even bluesier and tenser spin to put on Williams’ “West Memphis,” a prelude to that added meaning. Done with the notes that the lyrics – and what – could have taken. In the wake of the growing outrage in the city at that time.
Other standout turns range from Russell taking center stage on his own with “Fruits of My Labour” to joining in one of his now-famous clarinet solos, to Katie Pruitt’s picture-perfect take on the impossible. As tender as “something about what happens as we speak.” But as anyone watching at home via the Mandolin live stream will attest, it was a no-skips setlist. Producer Michele Accelato’s smart match-ups of singer and song maximized the possibilities of the lyrics, but even fewer singers might feel the need to pay tribute to Williams. Throughout her 44-year recorded catalog, there’s always been something going on when she writes.
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