Lucinda Williams is the latest headliner announced for Vancouver Island MusicFest in July. Photo by David McClister

Grammy-winner Lucinda Williams to play Vancouver Island MusicFest

Singer-songwriter has been on artistic director Doug Cox’s wish list for years

Lucinda Williams is one of the best singer-songwriters in the business, and this July she’ll be taking the mainstage at Vancouver Island MusicFest.

Artistic director Doug Cox has officially announced the three-time Grammy winner will headline the Saturday night of the festival.

For Cox, this announcement has been a long time coming, as he has been trying to lure Williams to the festival for years. He compares this addition to the lineup with other appearances by greats such as Bonnie Raitt, John Prine, Emmylou Harris or Ry Cooder. He saw her perform with an all-star lineup in Nashville, and he’s thrilled she’ll be playing the Comox Valley.

“She’s someone I’ve been trying to get every year for 20 years,” he told the Record. “It’s happening this year, so I’m really thrilled about that…. She is bringing her band with her too.”

Williams’s first record, Ramblin’, was released in 1979, but her fame grew after she won a Grammy as a songwriter for “Passionate Kisses,” when it was covered by country singer Mary Chapin Carpenter.

However, her real break-out did not come until the 1998 album, Car Wheels on a Gravel Road. The record garnered a Grammy for best folk album.

It also won the venerable Village Voice Pazz & Jop Poll as best record from 1998, and was picked by Rolling Stone in 2003 for its list of the 500 greatest albums of all time.

“That record is iconic, for sure,” Cox said.

If the record is still considered her masterpiece, her subsequent releases did not show any decline as she followed up with records like Essence and Down Where the Spirit Meets the Bone. Meanwhile, award nominations from the Grammy Awards and the Americana Music Association Awards continued to roll in.

“She’s also a great guitar player,” added Cox. “She kind of created a vocal style that a lot of people copied.”

Her work mixes country, folk, rock and blues into what is her own take on Americana, and her songs have been covered by a diverse range of artists, including Tom Petty, Harris, Ann Wilson, k.d. lang, Bettye LaVette, the Lemonheads, John Mellencamp, Ane Brun, Patty Loveless and Willie Nelson.

Paste Magazine, which has focused heavily on singer-songwriters, also picked Williams for a special issue in 2006 of the best then-living songwriters.

She was chosen number 22, right behind Van Morrison and Lou Reed, and just ahead of the team of Elton John and Bernie Taupin, and Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy.

One change for Williams and other headliners this year, Cox says, is the evening shows will end a little earlier than in past years. The final sets should finish by midnight on both Friday and Saturday, and a little earlier than that on Sunday.

“We got a lot of comments from folks that we’re just running too late,” he said.

RELATED STORY: Corb Lund to play Vancouver Island MusicFest in 2020

The festival made its first big announcement in December, with Alberta alt-country singer-songwriter Corb Lund named to the lineup.

For more information on festival performers and ticket information, see www.islandmusicfest.com.

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