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Live Review: Lucinda Williams

5 April 2012 | 1:18 am | Craig Pearce

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Despite the arresting, ultra-percussive technique that must keep his guitar 'mechanic' in solid work and marks him out as an artist who understands the cut-through of showmanship, Daniel Champagne builds on substance to deliver with bravura. Instead of what could easily come across as gimmickry, his approach feels easily organic. Champagne's blues moves migrate into an Australian-accented country at times, but the call of the blues is never far away. What a warm, uplifting reward for turning up to a gig at the advertised start time!

An Eilen Jewell set can seem like an extended vamp, but it's a good vamp. Her just woken up voice and bright eyed ingénue shtick (her doe eyes flutter... who, me?) is a smirking facade hiding her scorched – thanks in no little way to Jerry Miller's guitar – but resolutely lascivious heart. The rockabilly and honky tonk can seem like a genre prison from which the band struggles to escape, but a heavenly rendition of Santa Fe off the new LP might just be the harbinger of evolution that lifts Jewell out of her gilded setting.

Apart from a subdued central section where the ballads became somewhat samey (though it did feature an hysterically powerful Essence, where her molasses and metal filings voice – Rod Stewart circa Debris anyone? – carved slumberous arcs through a humid atmosphere thick with scent), Lucinda Williams put on one of THE great rock'n'roll gigs. And all this with an off the cuff country ease that subsumed influences and elevated her status as an iconoclast.

For the most part, Williams and her crack band dredged up post-Creedence southern riffs with plenty of grit and grunt then siphoned them through her distinct musical vision, one based to varying degrees on how deep can I revel in pain and how loose can I be with love? Doug Pettibone and Stuart Mathis put on a galvanising display of duel, jewelled guitars – sirens and bombs – with the rhythm engine of David Sutton and Butch Norton releasing incendiary devices with evil-eyed glee. Delivering a generous two-hour set, the power of her music is simply fundamental. It delivers punch with a finely detailed sense of clarity, yet without fussiness. Emotional heft is all – and she rides her wild pony with wicked, slouching élan.

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Craig N Pearce