Waiting for Her Essence: Lucinda Williams

That small figure with the blonde hair is Lucinda Williams, honest.

Well into Lucinda Williams’s set at Prospect Park in Brooklyn last Thursday, something happened that made me feel (helped along by a thermos of wine) as though I were having a hallucinatory experience. As Lucinda, our patron sinner—“Freedom means I can drink when I want, I can take drugs when I want” (or words to that effect), she had called out in preacherly tones—sang a line about fear while surrounded by purple lights, a few little girls in shorts started turning cartwheels. They were about midway between my group, sitting on blankets under a tree, and the far-off bandshell, with a fence between. There in the dark, as I listened to the sometime swamp rocker at her swampiest (in a different way), those cartwheels gave me a surge of, well, joy, an almost teary hope that these girls—girls everywhere; hell, boys too—could counter the fear, loneliness, heartbreak, and bitterness that Lucinda expresses only too well. (Even her song “Joy” is about losing that feeling.) During the concert, certain lines had seemed to hang in the night (“You managed to crawl inside my brain/You found a hole and in you came”), as though written by very knowing sparklers, reminding me that she’s the daughter of a poet. And her raw, unaffected but affecting voice made me think of the Frida Kahlo painting “The Two Fridas,” in which one exposed heart is linked to the other. The start was worrisome (sound problem? she had a cold?), but ultimately Lucinda put her heart out there, and, judging from the response, the crowd did the same. I know I did.

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