This DVD celebrates Lucinda Williams’ first appearance of three on 'Austin City Limits' in October of 1989.

Singer-songwriter Lucinda Williams, a Louisiana native, first released albums in the late 70s, but it was her 1988 release, 'Lucinda Williams' which led to her first Grammy for best country song, 'Passionate Kisses', which was recorded by Mary Chapin Carpenter in 1994. The late 90’s heralded the release of 'Car Wheels on a Gravel Road', famous for its rock, blues and country flavors – in which Williams struck “gold” literally – yes, this time not just a gold record, but another Grammy. Williams released 'Little Honey' in 2008, this time surprising her fans with the duet 'Jailhouse Tears' which she sang with Elvis Costello.

Her vocal style and songwriting approach has been compared to country-star Steve Earle, mainly because of her lyrical reverence for the working-class and no-nonsense approach to examining the themes of hope, love-lost and unrequited passions.

“Look out at the western sky, over the western plains” she begins with 'Big Red Sun Blues', the opening track, a catchy tune with tight harmonies. The inimitable and sultry songwriting style of Williams’ puts “place” uppermost and “longing” not far behind. For instance, “I’ll be here waiting for you ‘cause I know you’ve been wild and blue. They could just take you up yonder, you’re already wild and blue.” There’s just the right taste of lead guitar from lead guitarist Gurf Morlix and Williams deftly plays a harmonic on her acoustic at just the right moment, too.

The ballad, 'Am I Too Blue For You ?' asks, “Is the night too black? Is the wind too rough? When you’re in the dark, do you call my name? Is there still a spark? Do you feel the same?” Ramblin’, being restless and homesick are the themes so often the hallmark of Williams’ repose and the moods these themes spawn create solid and meaningful moments. Another ballad, 'All My Love Has Been Taken For Granted', aches and aches some more. “My heart has been abandoned, everything I thought we had has been cast aside. You can’t fool me – I see it in your eyes.”

But when Williams’ abandons the ballads, she fires up.

'Crescent City' is a tribute to New Orleans and boasts a riveting guitar solo from Morlix. “I’m going back to the Crescent City where everything stays the same. Me and my sister, me and my brother, we used to walk down by the river…” Her earnest voice takes you to that place by the hand.

“Sylvia was working as a waitress in Beaumont", she sings on 'Beaumount'. "She said I’m moving away. I’m gonna get what I want, so she saved her tips and overtime, she bought an old rusty car, she works in the office now.” Though the lyric conveys the dust and grit of middle America, I think she stays in 'Beaumont' a little too long. But then 'Nothin’ In Rambling’ raises the blues bar high. “I was born in Louisiana, raised in Algiers, Ain’t nothin’ in ramblin.” Enriched by blues-harpist John “Juke” Logan, the sense of pace and place collide.

'I Just Want to See You So Bad' is a romp through pop before Williams ventures into: 'Side Of The Road' where more introspection occurs: “If only for a minute or two, I want to see what it’s like to be without you.” 'Price To Pay', however, is ultimately the pay-off. “It weighs a lot, it costs a lot, it’s worth a lot more. It’s my heart and there’s a price you have to pay.” Here Williams is at her lyrical apex as the emotional stakes are heightened with each verse.

It’s not until the next track, 'Disgusted', though that we realize her “axe” is not just ornamentation. Williams certainly knows the geography on her guitar as evidenced by a plethora of sinful folk and roots strums and hammer-ons, although I really wasn’t sure which path Logan's harp solo led to. Williams also demonstrated demure when asking the crowd 'Did someone tell you to clap that long?' and charmed the audience by beaming as she declared, "This feels really special." She’s the long-lost friend we’d gladly pick up at the bus depot even at 3 a.m.

The live performance of 'Passionate Kisses' zeroed in on the tightness and the versatility of the band. Moreover, the crème-de-crème of confessionals, 'Changed The Locks', a slice of woman-done-wrong (“Changed the locks on my door, changed the number on my phone”) cul-de-sacs into rock and it is here that we witness a little touch of lioness in Williams’ vocals.

My only misgiving is that at 65 minutes in length we couldn’t have heard just a little more. Essentially, this DVD bears strong testimony to a stark and solid songwriter/guitarist who blends mood and melody with intelligence, subtlety and skill. May her three decade career continue to grow strong and send her on the country road yet still more travelled.

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