Lucinda Williams went all the way from Nashville to Los Angeles to her husband’s native Twin Cities to come back around and gloat about her tumultuous experiences in Nashville. “Music City” came up repeatedly during her two-hour performance at the Dakota on Monday.
Playing her third of five semi-acoustic shows over seven nights at the downtown Minneapolis jazz haven, the Louisiana- and Texas-bred songwriting heroine opened the show with “Passionate Kisses” and the story of Mary Chapin Carpenter fighting her Music Row label executives to make her cover of the Lucinda classic a single. “They said it wasn’t country enough,” Williams recounted, “and, of course, it went on to win a Grammy -- for best country song!” A similar fight came up when Patty Loveless covered “Something About What Happens When We Talk,” which wound up being a tender highlight of Monday’s set, with guitarist Doug Pettibone perfectly matching Williams’ slow-warbling elegance.
Best of all, Williams unveiled an uptempo but downtrodden new song, “Bitter Memory,” which she proudly boasted would soon be sung by Connie Britton -- Tami Taylor to you “Friday Night Lights” lovers -- in an upcoming episode of Britton's new hit ABC TV series. Yep, the one called “Nashville.” Said Williams, “Not that somebody in Nashville is to thank. T-Bone Burnett is the one who got me to do it.”
Whether or not she agreed with Jon Bream’s review calling Friday night’s opening show “awkward,” Lucinda definitely seemed to be settling in at the Dakota on Monday. In fact, she may have even been a little too comfortable. She stopped herself at one point while talking about some of the ex-lovers that inspired certain songs (with her husband standing just 50 feet away). Said Williams, “Y’all are gonna know more about my personal life than anyone by the time I get done with these five nights.”
The best ex anthem on Monday was “Those Three Days.” She said it was the first time she and Pettibone tried out the tune as a duo because it’s more of a “full band” song. “If you can’t do a song without a whole band, then it’s probably not a very good song,” she sagely advised, and then proceeded to nail it beautifully. Other highlights included the stunningly poetic “Blessed” to kick off the encore, the many “Car Wheels on a Gravel Road” offerings (including “Drunken Angel” and the title track), the requisite and always-welcome pre-encore tear through "Changed the Locks," plus two more especially serene numbers, “Blue” and “Reason to Cry.”
The latter tune was nicely accompanied by violinist Lillie Mae Rische from Alabaman opening act the Kenneth Brian Band, whose members had so much fun playing the first two nights they hung around for Monday. It’s unclear if they’ll be back again Wednesday and Thursday, but local songwriting great Ben Kyle of Romantica fame -- who opened Monday’s show with a gorgeously hushed, heart-tugging half-hour set -- is for sure down to play both shows. Lucinda knows of Kyle's work through their mutual collaborator, Austin's Carrie Rodriguez. Tickets ($50-$60) are still available for Thursday.