Each week, Lizzy Goodman guides you through the dirty streets of rock and roll.
I’ve never been into the reality television thing. I watch TV in the same way I listen to music, to get lost in someone else’s snazzier world so I can get a little break from my own. My weakness, when it comes to TV isn’t Real Housewives or Jersey Shore, it’s weepy network dramas. You know that show Brothers and Sisters that was on for a while? It starred Sally Field as the fussy but well-meaning matriarch of a bunch of grown kids with their own lives to lead? My mom and I were two of the four people watching till the bitter end. The only thing that makes me happier than an earnest ensemble drama is an earnest ensemble drama set somewhere Southern-ish, where there are lots of good boys just trying to do the right thing while wearing flannel. Friday Night Lights was the best thing that ever happened to me.
“That an expression like ‘clear eyes full hearts can’t loose’ could resonate so completely with the human spirit as to be borrowed for everything from album titles (what’s up, Craig Finn) to political campaign slogans (R.I.P. Mitt) is proof of the power of earnestness.”
So when I saw the trailer for NBC’s Nashville I legitimately thought it was a spoof, so perfectly did it fit my paradigm for awesomeness. For the uninitiated, the show stars Tami Taylor (who sometimes goes by her alternate name Connie Britton) as an aging country diva of unimpeachable moral character who is competing for the fickle public’s love with a conniving young upstart (Hayden Panettiere). In between all the y’alling and backstabbing is some really great music, curated by none other than superproducer to the alt-country stars, T-Bone Burnett. It’s kind of like an SNL skit about a network TV adaptation of the Robert Altman film Nashville except they went ahead and made the whole show.
Needless to say, Wednesday nights have become sacrosanct. I don’t abandon my warbling country music divas for anyone … except, as it turns out, my favorite real-life warbling country music diva, Lucinda Williams. The singer was performing last night at the WFUV holiday show at the Beacon Theatre and, though it was hard, I set my DVR and managed to leave the apartment. It was worth it.
Williams has been a favorite of mine since I became obsessed with the soundtrack to that cheeseball mid-‘90s movie She’s the One, couldn’t stop listening to this Tom Petty song “Change the Locks,” then discovered it was actually written by this woman called Lucinda Williams all of whose albums my dad already owned. I was immediately hooked.
Part of the power of great art that uses sincerity rather than sarcasm to deliver its message is that when it hits it hits clean and true. That an expression like ‘clear eyes full hearts can’t loose’ could resonate so completely with the human spirit as to be borrowed for everything from album titles (what’s up, Craig Finn) to political campaign slogans (R.I.P. Mitt) is proof of the power of earnestness. Lucinda is a master at this. She’s never written an ironic song, though her lyrics have plenty of bite.
Last night she was on fire, slur-singing (as is her way) through many of her most famous songs, including a delicious rendition of “Drunken Angel” featuring special guest Steve Earle on harmonica. She even played my favorite Lucinda song of all time, “Out Of Touch.” But it was her intro to a brand new track that really made my night. “This is a new song, it’s called ‘Something Wicked This Way Comes,’” she said, the sheen of her bottle blonde shag creating a kind of halo in the spotlight. “It might be featured on that show Nashville. There’s this woman who plays the older country artist. She’s writing a song but it’s going to be my song.” She looked out at the crowd filled with grown ups turned teenagers for the night, smiled and said, “she represents the old school.”