Touring in support of her new album, Plays Well With Others, singer-songwriter Lera Lynn performed at Alexandria, Virginia’s Birchmere on Tuesday night. (To read my review of the album, an excellent collection of original, co-written duets, click any of these bolded words.) Lera brought two special guests along for the evening, folk-pop artist Peter Bradley Adams and John Paul White of The Civil Wars, both of whom appeared on the new record. Lera’s hot three-piece band — Todd Lombardo on guitar, Robby Handley on bass and banjo, and Ian Fitchuk on drums — accompanied the singer and her guests.
Tuesday’s show, Lera told the audience, was her first appearance at the Birchmere since 2011, when she had opened for Joan Osborne. (It was not, by any means her first appearance back in the DC area. Just this February, she appeared at a smaller venue further out in the suburbs, in Fairfax County.) At the time, the Texas-born, Georgia-based songstress had only released her first EP, Have You Met Lera Lynn? She’s since released another EP, Lying in the Sun, and three LPs: The Avenues, Resistor, and the aforementioned Plays Well With Others. Lera also collaborated with T Bone Burnett and Rosanne Cash on the soundtrack for the second season of HBO’s True Detective, and was cast in a recurring role as — what else? — a singer.
While Lera only had two of her duet partners with her for the evening, Peter and John Paul did an admirable job assisting her. In addition to singing their duet from her new album, “Same Old Song,” Peter and Lera also sang “Light That Match,” which a song from Peter’s duo project with Caitlin Canty, Down Like Silver. Peter also played the Wurlitzer and the Harmonium, or “squeeziebox,” as Lera called it.
John Paul sang his duet with Lera from the album, “Lose Myself,” and filled in for several other duet partners as well: Dylan LeBlanc (“What Is Love?”), Rodney Crowell (“Crimson Underground”) and JD McPherson (“Nothing To Do With Your Love”). John Paul and Lera sang another duet that wasn’t on the on the album, the country tune “Almost Persuaded.” He also sang solo on The Civil Wars’ “Black Leaf,” and a new song, that I think was called “What We’ve Done.”
John Paul also talked about the making of Lera’s album. He produced it on his label, Single Lock Records. He said that making a duets records is a really difficult undertaking, and commended Lera on her persistence to get the project done. John Paul expressed pride in and affection for Lera.
A funny moment came when Lera reacted to applause by pondering why people clap. I later suggested that it’s conformity; if enough people clap, you don’t want to be the person not clapping. Her question, it turned out was deeper: why do we strike our hands together to show approval or satisfaction? I didn’t want to hold up the line last night, and I don’t want to turn this into an anthropology lesson, but cultural practices surrounding applause and other expressions of approval or satisfaction vary. (If you are interested in this subject, look me up on Twitter.)
Lera rounded out her set with songs from The Avenues and Resistor. She closed out her main set with by singing TV On the Radio’s “Wolf Like Me” (sung on the album with Shovels & Rope) with both Peter and John Paul. The audience applauded thunderously, and she returned to sing “In Another Life,” and “Whiskey,” one of the first songs she ever wrote.
After the show, Lera, Peter, and John Paul signed merch and met with fans. All three had merch for sale, and they all graciously took time not just to sign autographs but to really to interact. I purchased a poster of the cover art to Lera’s latest album, and I got it signed by all three artists. I talked to Peter for a few minutes before I left the Birchmere, and look forward to seeing him at the Union Stage in DC in August 24. (Mark your calendars, people!) For more information and tour dates, look here. https://www.leralynn.com/tour