Some alt-country memories were resurrected Sunday night at 3rd & Lindsley through East Tennessee singer/songwriter Jill Andrews and Megan McCormick. A lot of Andrews fans may know her best as singer for former roots band the Everybodyfields, which was based in Johnson City, TN and included McCormick’s guitar skills for the album Nothing Is Okay. But this was no reunion; each artist did what she did best, (including American Idol star Crystal Bowersox, who also shared the bill) as parts of the show were broadcast on Lightning 100.
First up was Andrews, who opened her set with a beautiful slow number, “Blue Eyes,” written about baby son Nico (who hung around in the back of the house during the show). Her voice is powerful and almost liquid in the way it embodies the lyrics, and at times – particularly in slower songs – her vocals take on a haunting yet warm quality reminiscent of Trespassers William. Standout songs were the weepy strummer “Always Be Sorry” and soft reminiscing of “City Noise,” though the set would have been even better had she thrown in a few of her covers (she does a particularly good Fleetwood Mac “Dreams” and John Lennon “Instant Karma”).
Next onstage was Crystal Bowersox who, though she was armed with a strong, dusky voice, paled in comparison to the preceding and following sets. After getting her break as a runner-up on American Idol, Bowersox recently released her debut, Farmer’s Daughter, which is rife with her personal traumas. Like her voice, her lyrics are undeniably bold, but not as hard-hitting as Andrews’ and McCormick’s, which could change with time and experience.
Megan McCormick was last, which was probably for the best, since she completely owned the show. It was my first time seeing her live, and, though I’d heard and liked the recorded material, I did not expect as much as she brought to the performance. Whether she was playing steadier slow-burners or fiery, up-tempo stuff, each song was heated and thick with the blues – hear “Shiver” or “Take Me Out.” The set stretched to 15 songs, a large part of its success due to the talent of the upright bass player and McCormick’s expressive guitar playing, not to mention poignant, even vocals that pair well with her alt-blues-folk mash-up. – Jessica Pace
Maybe there's another punk band out there who can smoothly work jazz chords into their songs, but we have no idea who that is, nor do we care, because we're totally set right now with the new EP that Paper Machete spontaneously recorded recently. They're sharing the goodies this Saturday at The End by GIVING THEM AWAY FOR FREE to the first 75 people! Weeee! How generous! If that isn't enough of an incentive, also playing are two of our Infinity Cat favies, D. Watusi, and Natural Child, along with Big Sir and the Greater Good. Now THAT'S a quality show. Go here for more details.--Erin Manning
P.S. If you reeeaaalllyyyy can't make it to the show on Saturday, you can download the EP for free on the Paper Machete Bandcamp page. HEYOH!
So here’s a taster from Heypenny’s upcoming and much anticipated A Jillion Kicks (due out Feb. 22). It’s called “Purple Street” and it’s more of the danceable, frenzied pop candy we’ve come to expect from the Nashville group. Download the track here and look out for Heypenny’s next hometown show Feb. 26 at Mercy Lounge. – Jessica Pace
Saturday night proved to be a toughie when it came to choosing which show to go to, given the options of Mercy Lounge’s 8th anniversary soiree, Chris Pureka at The Basement, or Matthew Perryman Jones. In the end, I opted to go see the homecoming of indie folk singer/songwriter, Sharon Van Etten. She used to live in nearby Murfreesboro before she moved to Brooklyn to begin performing her material, and eventually record two albums, so there was quite the crowd that was eager to see her finally perform in Nashville again.
I arrived to catch the very end of Jasmin Kaset’s set, which was a bummer because I’ve heard such good things about her recently, but have yet to see a full live performance. Her voice can best be described as a more blessed descendant of Deb Talan’s (lead singer of The Weepies), put into a similar musical context but with some electronic and indie-pop influences, and a greater use of harmonies. Songs like “Food,” and “Window Shopping,” demonstrate Kaset’s ability to create catchy folk/pop songs that transform into deeply layered valleys of sound. She recently released an album, “Hell and Half of Jordan,” which can be listened to and purchased here.
Next was Julianna Barwick, who has been opening for Sharon on the tour, and added some nice variety to the lineup, but was, unfortunately, ill-suited for the racket that was created at the 5 Spot. I couldn’t really hear the majority of her set, which consisted of her doing a lot of potentially cool tricks with looping her voice, but I think it was probably supposed to sound like a girlier, less-experimental Sigur Ros or Animal Collective. Collectively, the drunkies on Saturday night could’ve probably just done with one opener, and seemed more than ready for Sharon to perform by the time she actually took the stage. She probably only played 7 or 8 tunes, and they were mostly more “up-tempo” ones from her most recent album, “Epic”--up-tempo at least for Sharon Van Etten, that is. Even in a live setting, she sounded just like she does in recordings: effortlessly emitting her unusual lines with a lilting breathlessness that makes me think of her as having perfected the art of doing tasteful runs in an indie capacity, (which is something that sets her apart from comparable artists); these runs were also nicely complemented by the band.
Thank goodness she brought that harmonium along with her too, because it created the perfect foundation for her melodies to meander over. She made use of it on the especially gorgeous closer, “Love More,” which was another fine example of her atypically-poetic lyrical tendencies. Van Etten’s music managed to offer the same glimpses of beauty that her recordings have, and Nashville is happy to claim her as a past resident--even though she technically lived in Murfreesboro. Good luck to her on the rest of her tour.--Erin Manning
What with the snowflakes flying and people going about 12 on the interstate, there was no reason to expect much of a turnout for the fourth night of celebrating Mercy Lounge’s existence, but a good-sized crowd showed up to see Washington state transplants The Lonely H open the show. There was a plethora of skilled musicians performing that night, but The Lonely H blew me away just with sheer enthusiasm and vigor alone. Nashville’s music venues have heard enough down-home roots rock, both good and bad, to last a lifetime, but this band held my attention between blazing guitar parts, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers-like pounding on the keys, the thrash of a tambourine and a perpetually smiling bassist.
The legendary and aging Bobby Keys went on second, alternating an intense, hot jazz fusion on the saxophone with anecdotes about recording with the greats and referring to the crowd’s young folk as piss ants. I was flattered. After a drawn-out jam session, English Dogs took the stage for their first gig ever, previously unaware of the British punk/metal band of the same moniker. They weren’t without talent; it was feisty pop rock with touches of jazz, but I remain distrustful of men who perform with half-unbuttoned shirts. The Rouge and the Captain Midnight Band closed the show, but I think the real show was happening on the floor in front of the stage, where a Stevie Nicks sort of woman from northern California was exuberantly dancing. – Jessica Pace
3rd & Lindsley’s Sunday night show is worth a mention; not only is local singer/songwriter Megan McCormick playing, but Nashville’s also being neighborly with its East Tennessee musical counterpart. Johnson City native Jill Andrews will be there with her soft and southern folk pop (and will hopefully play her beautiful cover of Fleetwood Mac’s “Dreams”). Crystal Bowersox is on the bill as well, tickets are ten bucks and the show starts at 7:30. – Jessica Pace
This week is the 8-year Anniversary of Nashville's beloved Mercy Lounge. Happy Birthday! Happy Anniversary! Happy free show week! A bunch of Nashville's best local bands and artists will be playing each night, and the fact that they're all playing for free is reason enough to celebrate. Below is a schedule of everything, but go here if you need some extra details:
Monday, 1/17/11: 8 off 8th Special Anniversary Edition
"Tame that nasty shrew cause she knows what you’re up to/you gotta keep her thin and hungry so she’s eager for your love.” So begins folk pop songstress Tristen’s first full-length, Charlatans at the Garden Gate (through American Myth Recordings), which plays out like a modern fairy tale as she references dark jungles, court jesters and tadpoles. As a synthesizer blares prettily, she sings the opener “Eager for Your Love” (which you can download for free here) in poignant, honeyed vocals that set the stage for the entire LP.
Traditionalist in melody and original in lyrics that have a poetic appeal, the album unfolds 11 tracks in an illustrative, story-like manner amidst folky acoustic strumming, plucky keys (“Matchstick Murder”) and sporadic suggestions of country influence (“Heart and Hope to Die”). Though Charlatans has indie darling appeal, the soaring, bell-like vocals have a maturity and a powerful quality that would mainstream well. And while there is no shortage of finesse – from beautiful background harmonies to the use of strings, like on “Wicked Heart” – one of the album’s best qualities is the sense of humor that quietly creeps into the instrumentation. It comes out occasionally with a flamboyancy and fullness in the vocals and instrumentation that is reminiscent of The Pretenders, or when she channels Nancy Sinatra with cooing sweet talk, like in “Baby Drug,” or the country-influenced bounce in the percussion.
Charlatans simply proves that Tristen knows how to do what she does, and she does it well, making a retro style fresh and satisfying both the desire for lyrical depth and beautifully-crafted melodies. The playful speculations about love, even when on the rocks, aren’t heavy or literal, but artfully masked in metaphors, and as a result, the album is expressive and meaningful without being too weighed down.--Jessica Pace
Do yourself a favor tomorrow night and go to an early show at The Basement. At 7 pm sharp, two of Nashville's most talented superstars, Bryn Davies and Gibb Droll, will be performing in their new project, "The Screeching Eels." I'd say this little ensemble can be deemed, "A real musician's kinda band," especially since you pretty much never see a frontwoman/upright bass-player. Whaaaaat?! I know, right? Go here for a little video to suck you in, and then be sure to go to the show to see it in real life and not just on the interwebs. It's Free!--Erin Manning