Every once in a while, I get to see an artist who cuts right through the clutter of other shows and goes to the root of great music. Gaelynn Lea, for me, is one of those artists. She celebrated the release of her EP “The Songs We Sing Along the Way” Tuesday in Duluth and Wednesday at First Avenue’s 7th Street Entry.
Starting the evening was Chicago’s Minor Moon the songwriting project of Sam Cantor supported by Nathan Bojko on drums, Michael Downing on bass and vocals, and Colin Drozdoff on keys. The opening song “So Composed” had an intro that (at last for me) drew a strong connection to Marvin Gaye’s “I heard it through the Grapevine”. Not as in swiped but reminiscent of in a very good way. It set the mood for their set at smooth, soulful and classic. Classic also includes some very vintage keyboards. Overall a cool band that I look forward to seeing more of.
Set List: So Composed / Swamp / Fault Lines / Catch 1 / Futon / If I ain’t got You / Weird How
Gaelynn Lea has been a staple of the Duluth music scene for years; both solo and as part of A Murder of Crows. This spring saw her come to national attention as the winner of NPR’s Tiny Desk Concert contest.
“The Songs We Sing Along the Way” is a collaboration with Minneapolis’ Alan Church adding his guitar to Lea’s vocal, fiddle and fiddle loops. The set started with “Watch the World Unfold” and it only took a few seconds for Lea to pull the crowd in her grasp. She takes classic sounding fiddle tunes and breathes modern life into them. Here voice adds a unique quality and the more one listens to more here lyrics draw you in as well. Add to that a wicked sense of humor and a great personality on stage and you have yourself an irresistible combination. She also talks about the background of her songs and the history of fiddle tunes, at one point drawing a connection to Britney Spears’ “Toxic”, that she calls her guilty pleasure.
“Breathe you are Alive” was a combination of spoken word and music; and for the Murder of Crows’ “Bird Song” she enlisted the audience’s help in place of Alan Sparhawk. The rapt attention of her fans during her show was impressive; and applause came not only from them but also from stagehands and security. And that, right there tells you what kind of experience yesterday’s show was.
Set List: Watch the World Unfold / Medley in D-Major / Swallowtail Jig / Boys of Bluehill / Let it Go / Red Haired Boy / Someday we’ll linger in the Sun / Southwind / Bird Song / Tombigee Waltz / Red Rocking Chair / Si Braeg Si Mohr / Breathe you are Alive / Hailing from Ekshärad / Little Boxes / Brenda Stubbert’s Reel – The Parting Glass