Celtic Connections review: Lucinda Williams, Glasgow

Lucinda Williams

Lucinda Williams

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Note to aspiring musicians: the way to net a juicy support slot is to name your boat after the headliner. Well, it worked for Vancouver-based Jenny Ritter, whose fragrant Americana (Canadiana?) served up the sorbet before Lucinda Williams’ meaty main course.

Lucinda Williams | Rating: **** | Glasgow Royal Concert Hall

This formidable country rocker was in good spirits, pleased to be back in Scotland “where people understand passionate music about things like death”. Drunken Angel, one of her go-to songs, celebrates one who went too soon, musician Blaze Foley, while West Memphis, a song about the demonisation of difference, was inspired by the case of the West Memphis Three.

But though Williams digs deep down to the musical roots and often comes up with her hands dirty, she offered something verging on sweetness and light with When I Look at the World, which channelled the wide-eyed innocence of 60s bubblegum pop, and turned in a tender Lake Charles, beautifully embellished with the delicate but sonorous guitar of Stuart Mathis from her revved-up backing band, Buick 6.

Her splendidly scuffed voice was foregrounded on the acoustic blues of The Ghosts of Highway 20 but the set took an increasingly rock’n’roll route, with a stormy roots rock arrangement of one of her father’s poems, Dust, a heavy reggae-flavoured instrumental breakdown and blues workout Honey Bee to close, before she returned to shake her stuff on Robert Johnson’s Stop Breaking Down. “I love playing that song,” she declared. That love was infectious.

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