Music seen at SPACE Gallery, April 21, 2008
Not to diminish where she is right now, but Darien Brahms would make one hell of a novelty dive-bar act in 20 years.
Her stage presence is somewhere between Elvis and a Siamese cat, half fluid groove, half exaggerated hip sways. During guitar solos, she’s either charmingly determined or totally effortless, like a hustler ready to challenge you to a game of Guitar Hero. Over the course of a 50-minute set, she becomes steadily more raucous and coy (“Hi, I’m Darien, and I am American Music Club”); even without her considerable songcraft, she could probably keep a bar rowdy and satisfied for four hours.
Brahms, with a baritone guitar and drum support from timekeeper-to-the-stars (Emmylou Harris, Lucinda Williams) Ginger Cote, played mostly new material from a nearly-complete album that’ll be out sometime this year. The set leaned heavily toward deep, roadhouse grooves that wouldn’t be out of place on a Quentin Tarantino soundtrack were it not for Brahms’s vocals, which toe a dynamic line between Melissa Etheridge’s hearty sentimentality and Chris Robinson’s (yeah, the Black Crowes guy) enthusiastic disregard for clear syllables. In other words, this was about as satisfying as gritty country chick-rock gets.
Following Brahms was a predictably immaculate performance from Mark Eitzel and American Music Club, the decades-running model of a band criminally underheard and underseen. Eitzel is, in and between songs, a great storyteller and a sharp wit. When he introduced a song about a girl he used to love — he’s a “gay Communist” now — a heckler asked what her name was, he looked affronted and sad and said, “Lost,” then belted an American-songbook ballad so satisfying you were left to wonder why we value flair and innovation so much more than professionalism these days.
: Live Reviews
, Elvis Presley, Johannes Brahms, Lucinda Williams, More