You have to be impressed when a singer/songwriter has Ry Cooder sit in as guitarist, and our expectations were met with Sam Outlaw’s energetic delivery, which kept the Cannery Ballroom packed and toe-tapping for his entire set, not an easy feat when you have another two acts in the same building, and it’s easy to run from one to the other.
Yep Roc trio the Stray Birds remain a cut above competing trios. The female lead singer, Maya di Vitry, has it really commanding voice when needed, but backs off to blend perfectly into the intricate harmonies of her two male bandmates, both of whom also sing lead. The band performed a few covers, including Townes Van Zandt’s “Loretta,” bluegrass style, but their own songs stood up to the test, notably “Harlem,” an homage to New York, and a love song to a record store owner, “Best Medicine,” which brought me to tears, and should become Record Store Day’s national anthem. It’s the title track from their upcoming album. Watch for it.
At Third Man Records, Andrew Combs fronted a tight band with solid songs tinged with rockabilly. Lee Ann Womack doled out a dose of pure country with her liquid voice and small-town lyrics. In the country music tradition, she sings about real life and real people. ” I may hate myself in the morning, but I’m going to love you tonight” is something most of us have said at one time or another in our lives–or should have.
Honky tonk hero Paul Burch has a sound straight out of the past, with the feel of a smokey dive, and dancing. His lyrics, however, are a fresh take, and worth paying attention to. Last, but not least, I closed out the night with Matt Andersen, the biggest guy with the biggest voice in North America. With absolutely perfect vocals and killer acoustic guitar chops, all Anderson needs are great songs…and he’s got ’em. Intelligent and romantic lyrics without a trace of the cheap and easy sentimentality that makes me nauseous. Bonus points for brief and funny patter introducing most songs–a big “Bravo!” for an amazing performer.
– Suzanne Cadgene