It all started in the grooves and lanes on the side of Highway 61.
If you go
WHAT: Lucinda Williams
WHEN: 8 p.m. today
WHERE: TD Arena, 301 Meeting St.
MORE INFO: spoletousa.org, (843) 579-3100
"The first person that influenced me to start writing songs was Bob Dylan," said award-winning songwriter Lucinda Williams. "I heard 'Highway 61 Revisited' in 1965, and it really made an impression on me. There was nothing else like it at the time."
Fortunately, Williams hasn't stopped since. And one woman's tenacity, grit and passion is music's reward.
Since the 1979 release of her debut album, "Ramblin'," Williams has been writing, performing and touring across the world for more than three decades.
With 11 albums, 15 Grammy nominations and three wins to her credit, she has earned the respect of her peers.
But she is hardly one to rest on her laurels. She is a kinetic wind of creativity with 26 tour dates in 16 states scheduled during the next three months alone.
"When I was growing up, my family moved around a lot because my dad taught at different colleges," Williams said. "As an adult, I've lived in Austin and Houston for a total of nine years and 10 years (respectively). I was in Nashville for nine years. I've been back in Los Angeles for 10 years. I just feel myself drawn to certain places."
Williams has won awards in seven genres: country, rock, folk, singer/songwriter, pop and Americana - even as the music industry and public tastes have changes those genres.
"I don't try to set out to fit into one label, genre or anything," Williams said. "I've always appreciated different styles of music. It's hard to describe to someone how you play. I usually just say 'roots rock,' or I'll just say 'the female Bob Dylan,' 'the female Neil Young' or 'the female Tom Petty.' "
"Lucinda is beyond genres," said Odie Blackmon, a Grammy-nominated country songwriter and lecturer at Vanderbilt University's Blair School of Music. "She helped define the Americana genre, but she is also an American treasure like a Hank Williams or a Willie Nelson."
It is this elevation into a more universal realm that allows Williams to easily join the ranks of an expansive Wells Fargo Jazz Series among jazz artists such as Rene Marie, Charenee Wade, Kat Edmonson and Gwilym Simcock.
"If the work is good, it speaks to the entire spectrum," Michael Grofsorean, director of the festival's jazz series, said. "And like all the great ones, Williams has a unique voice both as a composer and as a performer. It's a tough life and unpredictable, and also like all the greats, she has devotion and determination to do what she does."
And with song titles like "Howlin' at Midnight," "Changed the Locks," "Lines Around Your Eyes," "Concrete and Barbed Wire," "Reason to Cry" and "Fancy Funeral," Williams has incorporated a life full of improvisations and molded them into a tender, tenacious and vibrant catalog.
"There's nothing like it when you have new songs and something fresh to record," Williams said. "I like feeling connected with the audience, too. It's a two-way thing. I get inspired by the audience, and I want them to be inspired by me. That connection between me and the audience and the audience and me: That's what I always hope for."
Nick Reichert is a Goldring Arts Journalist from Syracuse University.
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