Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

Abbie Barrett and Her Band Wail at the Rockwood

Saturday night at the Rockwood, singer Abbie Barrett took a stab at explaining what she’s all about. She’d recently been asked by someone, maybe a promoter or a blogger. “I was supposed explain what my theme is. What’s my theme? Telling people off in a really obnoxious way.” Which isn’t exactly true. Her stage persona is hardly obnoxious, although she’s very, very good at telling people off, sometimes directly (one of her catchiest songs might have been called Fuck Off), more frequently in a subtle, vividly lyrical way. Barrett does it without cliches, a tinge of smoke in her soaring voice adding a plaintive edge to her country and vintage soul-inflected rock songs. As Mary Lee Kortes famously said, never mess with a songwriter. They always get even in the end.

She and her excellent band had just driven up from Boston. “This song is about road rage,” Barrett told the crowd, as they launched into Bang, the darkly bluesy soul shuffle that opens her most recent album Dying Day. After a surprise tempo shift, the Telecaster player switched to a distantly ominous, watery chorus-box tone for the rest of the song. They’d opened with a song possibly titled On the Range, blending 60s psychedelic folk with an anthemic, big-sky feel, a cynical account of a place where there are no jobs and not much of anything else. Barrett went deep into soul mode with a defiant shuffle, its narrator refusing to back down: she’s a soldier. A fast, potently jangly number sounded like the Grateful Dead classic Bertha done by another Barrett, Syd, bassist Alec Darien soaring into the upper frets over the apprehensive chord changes. They wrapped up their set with the suspenseful Kingdoms and Castles, seemingly a dis aimed at a would-be domestic goddess, its hypnotic, atmospheric intro building to a backbeat-driven stomp. As enjoyable as the acoustic/electric guitar textures were – the room doesn’t usually get as loud as these guys were – it would have been nice to have heard more of the lyrics cut through, especially considering how intensely Barrett was singing them. But that wasn’t the band’s fault. Barrett’s next gig is on June 11, outdoors at Union Square in Somerville, Massachusetts; watch this space for upcoming NYC dates.

May 19, 2011 Posted by | concert, Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment