In what can only be described as one of those rare tours that sticks out in the minds of those in attendance for years to come, harpist Mary Lattimore, Katie Crutchfield (a.k.a. Waxahatchee), and former Woods bassist Kevin Morby hooked up for a short run of intimate shows. From harp to electric guitar to acoustic guitar, each soloist brought a unique sound and persona to the show.
Leading off was Mary Lattimore and her exquisite harp playing. Lattimore should be understood as her own harpist, one who transcends comparisons to fellow harpists Joanna Newsom, Sun Riah, or Audrey Harrer. Unlike the later, Lattimore foregoes the convention of singing and replaces it with more voices from her harp that accompany her playing via a delay/loop pedal she manipulates during the performance. There is something equally pure and terrifying about relying solely on your instrument as the sole focal point from an untrained (at least with regard to the harp) audience for the entirety of a performance. Regardless of one’s history of classical harp pedigree, I think most in the audience would concur, there was something special about Ms. Lattimore’s performance that evening. Her humble and gracious interludes between songs were at odds with her virtuosity and acutely creative layering of notes, chords, and at times even percussive sounds generated from her rings thwacking the soundboard, or was it the soundbox, of her 21st century lyre. Regardless, there was magic plucked from each string as the sounds looped and layered and ricocheted throughout the room, settling beautifully in the lap of those who were listening. After a modest bow of her head, Mary smiled and thanked the crowd before quietly exiting stage left.
Next up was Katie Crutchfield of Waxahatchee and sister of Allison Crutchfield who recently released her debut solo album Tourist in this Town on Merge Records to rave reviews. As was evidence this evening, there is clearly something special that runs through the Crutchfield family with regard to singing, songwriting, and performing. The soulful and honest sounds, whose roots descend deeply into the soil of Birmingham Alabama, washed effortlessly over the seated audience members like successive baptisms in soulful indie-folk music. Performing cuts from her most recent release, Ivy Tripp on Merge Records, to older cuts and a cover, Waxahatchee delivered a soulful and introspective set that left the majority smiling and thinking deeply about her lyrics and their deeper meanings.
Finally, Kevin Morby, formerly of Woods, took to the stage with his wavy and waxy locks, linen shirt, and 6 string acoustic strapped up high just under his chin. As he does in a rather unique and deliberate fashion, Morby delivered the lyrics to a number of cuts from his sophomore solo venture Still Life and the more recent 2016 Singing Saw released on the Woodist label and Dead Oceans label respectively. He also included memorable performances of “Beautiful Strangers” and “Destroyer” on keyboard and accompanied by Mary Lattimore on harp.
The night was filled with positive vibes and smiles throughout the attentive head bobbing audience. It was quite a special event that felt peaceful, inspiring, and entirely unpretentious. I was struck by the natural beauty of Morby’s “Harlem River”, Waxahatchee’s “La Loose”, and a medley of “A Tunnel” and “A Road” from Music Inspired by Philippe Garrel’s Le Révélateur, a collaboration with fellow Philadelphian Jeff Zeigler. Needless to say it was a special evening for all those fortunate to be in attendance.