Erin Rae & The Meanwhiles – Seven Arts, Leeds, 16/06/2017
Erin Rae & The Meanwhiles were last here in Leeds in November. That night just down the road a piece at the Brudenell Social Club they were supporting fellow Nashville country artist Cale Tyson. Since then Erin Rae has been very busy. She has opened for Richard Thompson, Pam Tillis, and been out on the road with Andrew Combs; taught voice lessons back home in East Nashville to singers of all ages and abilities; and even had time to lay down the dozen tracks that will eventually comprise her second full-length album, Putting On Airs.
Tonight Erin Rae (McKaskle) is at Seven Arts with her Meanwhiles – Dom Billett and Jerry Bernhardt on their respective drums and guitar and who both share harmony vocal duties – as part of The Wild Blue Wind Tour of Germany, England and Scotland. It is Erin Rae’s first headline tour of the UK and on tonight’s evidence alone you do sense that she is now ready to step out of the shadows of her previously largely supporting roles to establish herself as a major act in her very own right.
Erin Rae opens with ‘Light’, the first track from her 2015 debut album Soon Enough, and she and her two musical cohorts then proceed to take us on a spellbinding journey across some of the highlights of that record as well as affording us a tantalising glimpse into what we can expect from her next. In the first half of the show from Soon Enough we also get ‘Futile Attempts’ – written for her father – the album’s stately title track, and ‘Spitshine’ which is all about having a big crush on someone and where Bernhardt’s lyrical guitar enables the song to just glide.
In the second half of tonight’s performance and also from that first album we get the delightful ‘Pretty Thing’, the equally gorgeous ‘Monticello’, the set’s closing song ‘Clean Slate’ and a quite impeccable final encore of ‘Rose Colour’, all of which are shot through with Erin Rae’s quiet determination and her strong belief in trying to attain some form of contentment in life despite whatever vicissitudes and travails you may face along the way.
In between times, Erin Rae performs a stunning solo rendition of ‘Jesus Was A Crossmaker’. Written by her fellow American singer-songwriter Judee Sill, in her interpretation of it Erin Rae moves the song away from the haunted memory of the composer’s troubled life whilst managing to retain all of the its original redemptive intent.
Yet it is perhaps on the newer material where the view that Erin Rae’s star is now firmly on the rise becomes even more apparent. ‘Wild Blue Wind’ – the song after which the current tour is named – weighs heavy with country music’s primary emotions of longing and regret and through the clarity of her remarkable voice she is able to accurately convey these feelings. We are also truly blessed to hear the first public airing of ‘The Grand Scheme’ and then ‘Like The First Time’ – the first single to be taken from Putting On Airs and tonight’s initial encore – is slowed down to reveal even more of its inherent resonance and splendour.
It is a truly excellent performance, one that not only is invested with great tenderness and beauty but also promises much for Erin Rae’s future. Having recently turned 27 years of age, you feel her time is just about to come.
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