Lucinda Williams Covers Lou Reed, Announces New Album at NYC Concert

Michael Wilson
Lucinda Williams

Her cover of the Velvet Underground's 'Pale Blues Eyes' will be on the album.

When Lucinda Williams hit the stage at Manhattan's Beacon Theatre on Monday night, it felt like the perfect NYC venue choice for her. Much like the movie palace-turned-concert venue, the alt-country singer-songwriter has always been an artist out of step with her era, and she's much more fascinating for it.

After all, there aren't many country artists who hit the stage and talk about writing songs inspired by Flannery O'Connor, cover the Velvet Underground in their encore and rock out as hard as Neil Young & Crazy Horse. Over the course of her extensive career (which continues to yield an astonishingly reliable body of work), Williams has never fit into any of the dominant trends in country or folk music.

But for a sold-out crowd of New Yorkers (ages ranged from early 20s to early 60s), that's part of her appeal. As country music styles go in and out of fashion via an ever-changing parade of fresh faces, Williams endures, continuing to mine an inexhaustible library of incisive observations about life for her heartfelt, often heartbroken, music.

Highlights from her latest album, the thematically sprawling Where the Spirit Meets the Bone, wove easily into a setlist filled with classic Williams songs like "Essence," "Drunken Angel" and "Lake Charles." That's as much a credit to her sturdy songcraft as to the musicianship of her band, who stretched out and explored each song without ever veering into aimless jam band territory.

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Aside from "Compassion" -- a song she adapted from a poem her father, Miller Williams, wrote -- the most touching moment was when Williams covered "Pale Blue Eyes" for her first encore.

Williams previously tackled the Velvet Underground classic at a SXSW tribute to the late Lou Reed earlier this year, and it was a fitting cover choice while playing the late icon's hometown. Her gravelly, naked voice gave the song an odd aura -- halfway through it felt less like a cover and more like the words were her own, if only for the moment.

Additionally, Williams took the opportunity to announce that while recording the two-hour-plus Where the Spirit Meets the Bone, she'd accumulated enough material to release another brand new album, presumably sometime in 2015. "We've got a whole 'nother album's worth of material, and 'Pale Blue Eyes' will be on that one," Williams told the crowd.

After turning up the volume for a scorching run-through of Neil Young's "Rockin' in the Free World," Williams extended her arms to the fervently applauding crowd, as if to hug everyone before sending us out into the significantly less-rocking real world outside the Beacon Theatre.


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