Show Review: Beth Bombara with Erica Blinn at Nashville’s City Winery

Show Reviews

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photos by Elmer Mobley

I walked into the lounge at City Winery not knowing what to expect. I had been asked to cover Beth Bombara on the eve of releasing her new album Evergreen (which is incredible by the way) and I can honestly say I was completely unfamiliar with her work. The same applied to opener Erica Blinn but I settled in and prepared myself for what I hoped would be a great night of music.

Blinn strolled out right on time, plugged in solo and launched into “Everything Sucks” which hopefully would not prove to be prophetic. It was just the opposite as it was punky with that 70s New York grimey DIY guitar feel and a big solid voice that captivated me from the moment she started to sing. IF she had walked off the stage after only one song I still would have thought it was great show! Her set was consistently strong and showcased the strength of her songs as it is only her voice, guitar and the occasional harmonica.  “I Wish We Had A Screen Door” has this great laid back feel and redirects our focus from wishing for physical things when we should be appreciating the intangibles we have been blessed with. I thought it was going to be my walk away fave until she played “Be My Man.” Crunchy garage guitar stylings, an interesting take on gender, and Blinn’s impeccable lyrical turns left me wanting me more.  It was a great start to what would continue to be a fantastic night.

Beth Bombara did not let the energy of Blinn’s performance sit for too long before she and her band took the stage. I purposefully did not listen or research Beth before the show. I wanted to be surprised, wowed, impressed, etc instead of walking in with a pre-conceived notion of what to expect. The band noodled about, atmospherically, before going into “I Only Cry When I’m Alone,” the lead off track from Evergreen. As it turns out it was a great opener for the show as the country rock raveup immediately sucks you into the moment. ”Anymore” starts off with Bombara’s yearning vocals, complimented by doses of slide and jangle. The song builds before it explodes into a harder, grittier sound – a true rock and roll moment, but backs down towards the end.  I had no idea how the evening was going to go but two songs in I was basically grinning from ear to ear with anticipation of what I would hear next. “Evergreen” with its pounding drums has a little California cowpunk influence which I tend to like. “Sweet Time” from 2017’s Map & No Direction is dreamy with torchy vocals and reverb drenched guitar for good measure. It made me think of the music you might find playing in the background in a David Lynch film, which is meant in only the best of ways. “Good News” is slinky and a little sexy. The bass line stays funky throughout and the guitar work has a Joe Walsh feel which pushes the track along. I really, really, liked the way the band, as a whole, rocked out on this as it complimented Bombara’s voice perfectly.

Song after song followed and I was blown away after each one.  Bombara has a jubilant way about her as she plays and sings and it is difficult not to get caught up in it. I kept waiting for that moment where I could pigeonhole her sound. You know, that moment when you can see the influences on an artist’s sleeve? Just couldn’t find it.  There are fleeting moments but I found her and the band to be refreshingly original in both their songcraft and delivery. “I Tried” and “Growing Wings” start to wind down the set and as we approach the end of the set, I find myself not wanting it to end.  The killing blow of the evening is delivered not with a roar but with a jangle. “Upside Down,” by far my favorite song of the night is as damn fine a song as you could hope to hear, and I struggle to find the words to really do it justice. Vocals like a young Ronstadt, the best guitar work of the evening, a pulsing bass line and a drummer wearing out the kit all came together for the evening’s standout moment. I have had this song on constant replay since the album came out and I don’t imagine that is going to change anytime soon.  As I wrap up I want to make sure to give credit to Bombara’s band.  Guitarist Samuel Gregg is the secret spice that holds it all together.  His fret work is on display with every song and his contribution to the overall feel of the show can not be downplayed. Bombastic one moment and snuggled in the pocket the next, Mike Schurk on drums kept it tight. Kit Hamon on bass laid it down all night and provided the blueprint for the rest of the band to follow. If you get a chance to see Beth and company play I highly recommend it.  The new album Evergreen is nothing short of excellent and the live show is absolutely worth your time and attention.

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