My girlfriend and I spent this Sunday in the pleasant Virginia suburb of Vienna, making my first visit to Wolftrap Center for the Performing Arts. Lucinda Williams -- someone we've been trying to see for a long time -- was there, along with country music hall of famer Charlie Louvin. A quick recap for you all:
We got there an hour before the music started (and it starts right on time) to stake out our claim on the lawn. No video screens out there, but most places have a good view of the stage and we were lucky enough to grab a plot right behind the back of the pavilion. Pleasant evening, and thankfully Wolftrap lets you bring in whatever food and drink you want into the lawn area. Lots of Trader Joe's bags, microbrews, red wines, gourmet cheeses.
Charlie Louvin went on first and played a decent opening set. It was short, but, hell, the guy's at least 80. He talked about a song he and his brother had written about the war...that is, about World War II. Yeah. He's that old. But he's still in good voice, and even played "The Christian Life" -- always been a favorite from the first time I heard it on the Byrds' Sweetheart of the Rodeo.
The crowd was full for Lucinda Williams, who largely eschewed the slower, dirge-like material on some of her recent releases for a more rockin', upbeat set. She had a cracking band, and if anyone knows the name of her guitarist, please let us know. Four tunes off Car Wheels on a Gravel Road were a welcome surprise, but I also liked some of the new stuff including the nostalgic "Mama You Sweet" and the resigned, melancholy "Fancy Funeral." Williams is occasionally prone to some real lyrical clunkers, but she comes across as nothing but genuine -- unassuming and truly happy to be playing her music for such a big crowd. Later in the set, "Honeybee", a new song, had a little punk thing going on, hinting at a possible new direction.
She came back and closed with a couple covers -- Willie Nelson's "Mama Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys" and Fats Domino's "Honey Child" -- before playing a delightfully spare and pretty ballad, "Knowing" (a "love song", as she called it) to close the night. All in all, a strong performance from one of my personal favorite songwriter in contemporary country music.
Rescue / Pineola / Car Wheels on a Gravel Road / Crescent City / Mama You Sweet / Fancy Funeral / I Lost It / Still I Long for Your Kiss / Righteously / Where is My Love / Honeybee / Joy (with Led Zeppelin tease during the solo) / Unsuffer Me / Get Right with God / Everything Has Changed // Mamas Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up To Be Cowboys / Honey Child /Are you Down / Knowing
Lucindai Williams - "Pineola" (live from Berkeley)
Lucinda Williams - "Which Will" (Nick Drake cover)