Friday Night with Guitar George: Lucinda Williams Edition


Lucinda Williams is a gifted songwriter and an exceptionally good lyricist. Her 1998 masterpiece Car Wheels on a Gravel Road is one of the best albums from the past twenty years. She has a distinctively rusty and sultry singing style, but I enjoy her music as much for her backing musicians—guitarists in particular—as for Lucinda herself.

There is a junkyard dog quality to Doug Pettibone’s guitar sound in this live performance of “Joy.” As for the lyrics, any dime store wannabe can name-drop Memphis and New Orleans; it takes a true badass to drop West Memphis and Slidell. If you don’t understand the difference then you won’t understand Lucinda Williams.

In this performance of “Righteously” Williams looks like Keith Richards after a ten day drunk and she sings with an annoyingly deadpan delivery. Doesn’t matter. This song is included here because Doug Pettibone’s guitar work is simply ridiculous. It sounds like he took some rusty piano wire and stretched it across a piece of scrap metal and somehow managed to make it sound beautiful while retaining all the rawness one would expect from such materials.

I’m not sure who the lead guitarist is in this rendition of “Honey Bee.” Whoever he is, the honey bee in the song’s title is transformed into a raging bumblebee on his guitar. If you are wondering why Williams keeps glancing at lyric sheets while singing, refer to this article.

I was disappointed with the book Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. Don’t get me wrong, it is a good book and I enjoyed it, but it didn’t quite live up to the promise of its title. Such is not the case with Lucinda Williams’ “Real Live Bleeding Fingers and Broken Guitar Strings.” It is a badass song that meets and exceeds the expectations precipitated by its audacious title. On the album track, producer Mark Howard pushed Pettibone’s guitar up front and center and magnified the drone effect between notes, thus making it a rare example of a studio version packing more punch than the live performance. Nonetheless, tonight’s featured video is a live take. I don’t see any broken guitar strings, but I bet if you could zoom in real close you would see some real live bleeding fingers.

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