"This is exciting" announces Lera Lynn as she takes the stage to a warm Dublin reception at her first Irish date at Whelans. Lynn’s career path has been heading northwards over the past eighteen months with appearances on the David Letterman Show, writing songs for and appearing in the second series of True Detective (the second series got less than lukewarm reviews with Lynn’s role being descripted as the highlight of the shows), writing and working with T Bone Burnett and Rosanne Cash and finally releasing her latest album Resister (see Lonesome Highway Album Reviews Section) last month. Tonight’s show is the final night of her European tour before she joins Ben Folds for some dates in the UK.
The last night of tours can be unpredictable, often spectacular, sometimes less than memorable. Tonight’s show certainly falls into the former category with Lynn and her musical partner Joshua Grange delivering a ninety minute, 14 song show that reinforces precisely why the young Texas-born Nashville resident is such hot property at present.
She has the confidence and stage presence to engage and amuse a very attentive audience throughout the evening. At one point she holds up her pint of Guinness and jokes "first time in Ireland but sadly for only 24 hours, torture. We are, however, having the Irish experience" and pointing to the pint adds "we intend taking in as much of it as we can."
Her set consists of material from her three studio album together with songs from the True Detective soundtrack and a few well-chosen covers.
Lynn’s latest album is an experimental departure from her earlier work, introducing a much darker, atmospheric and cinematic edge to her work in contrast to the more rootsy country feel of her earlier material. This deviation is evident this evening even in the delivery of some of her earlier material which is performed with a more edgy feel than the studio versions.
Opening her set with Coming Down and Standing on The Moon, both from The Avenues, the quality and range of her flawless vocal together with the stunning guitar playing by Grange and indeed Lynn herself, kick in immediately.
"How do you all feel about Bruce Springsteen" she asks the crowd to a positive response. "How do you all feel about saxophones in rock music" she continues. She notes then that she's "not so sure about the saxophones but here’s a Bruce number anyway." Then she delivered a seductive version of Fire.
It’s interesting to note from the audience reaction to songs in the set from the True Detective (My Least Favourite Life , The Only Thing Worth Fighting For, A Church in Ruins) that quite a number in attendance only know Lera Lynn from her appearances in the series. "I worked with Colin Farrell you know" she teases to loud cheers.
Together with her glorious soaring vocals throughout the show her rhythm guitar work is also top drawer and in musical partner Joshua Grange she has the perfect ally. Grange’s pedigree is legendary having toured with Dwight Yoakam, kd Laing, The Dixie Chicks and Lionel Ritchie. His playing is stunning throughout, never better than on the sultry, bitter sweet What You Done and on an electrified version of Bobby Baby from her debut album. Grange also adds backing vocals and harmonies giving the two piece a full band effect.
What You Done was introduced tongue-in-cheek as the "most satisfying song I’ve ever written" and is probably the benchmark for much of the material from Resister. Dark, pulsating, it’s a monster of a song and is given justice live by Grange's baritone guitar and Lynn’s cutting vocals. Somewhat surprisingly only four songs from the latest album are performed with Little Ruby, her last song, getting the loudest cheer of the night with its catchy rhythm and the slick repetitive riff.
A solo delivery of A Church in Ruins from True Detective and a perfectly paced version of Ring of Fire with Grange back on stage closes what has been a gig to remember by a rare talent that without doubt has the potential to become a household name in the Americana genre going forward.
Review by Declan Culliton Photography by Ronnie Norton