Last night bluesy, twangy Memphis songwriter Grace Askew, 24, played Stickyz, accompanied by Black Market Goods drummer Jesse Williams and an amazing lead guitarist whose name I never caught.
At her best, Askew is soulful, sexy and dark. In it's lower ranges, her voice is reminiscent of PJ Harvey's. She covers Tom Waits, manages the complicated fingering of Mississippi John Hurt and writes intimate story-songs. At her most annoying, she's nasally, performative, saccharine and affectedly twangy — an industry aspirant one Greyhound awhile from Nashville. These are the times that remind us, Askew came to gigging fairly young (age 17) seeking the attention and acceptance (she claims in interviews) that her high school classmates wouldn't provide.
Largely the show was enjoyable. Her songs' guitar parts are great (owing, I suspect, to the unnamed man on lead). They smack of blues, jazz and flamenco — I even heard a few surfy licks. Askew may be trying to channel a young Loretta Lynn, but I suspect she and her band are suburban kids operating under the influence of many Memphis in May String Cheese Incident viewings. Frequent instrumental breaks and the playfulness and competence of Mr. Unnamed screamed as much.
Askew's performance lacked the immediateness that draws me to live music and the edginess that sears a performance in my brain. I appreciate her capacity for different styles, but perhaps she would be better served deciding how she wants to present herself artistically and cohering her music and her image behind this decision. Maybe then she would seem a bit more authentic.
So excited about this show!!!
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