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Preview: Lucinda Williams

Noah Bonaparte Pais on the acclaimed singer and songwriter, who comes to Tipitina's Sept. 15-16



Car Wheels on a Gravel Road isn't Lucinda Williams' debut, but to casual fans it might as well be. It's an album synonymous with a name, a commercial and critical breakthrough featuring A-list guests (Emmylou Harris, Steve Earle), a fussed-over, twice-recorded Exile on Main St. It's likely also the first thing most people heard from Williams herself, who was still very much an outsider country singer upon its release in 1998. Lake Charles' native daughter already had reached plenty of ears, of course, her caved-in vocals and lilting instrumentals becoming hits when filtered through other artists' voices and instruments: Mary Chapin Carpenter's Grammy-grabbing buffing of "Passionate Kisses," Harris and Neil Young's love exorcism on "Sweet Old World" (backed by Williams on guitar), Tom Petty's honky-tonking "Changed the Locks." She's 60 now, and on her current tour — the 15th anniversary of her coming-out party — she's been playing one record, start-to-finish, and it isn't Gravel Road. New Orleans gets two shows, the second of which will feature plenty of that hallmark recording. The first is for "Crescent City" and "Side of the Road," from the other album that should be synonymous with her name. It's called Lucinda Williams. The Kenneth Brian Band opens. Tickets $35. — Noah Bonaparte Pais

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