News Column

Review: At Ignition, new songs amp anticipation for McCue's next album

August 1, 2014

By Andrew S. Hughes, South Bend Tribune, Ind.



Aug. 01--GOSHEN -- Anne McCue broke in a new drummer, broke in a few new songs and broke a guitar string in her return Thursday night to Ignition Music Garage.

But there was nothing broken about her overall performance; if anything, Thursday's concert was more intense and rocked a little more than her November 2012 show at Ignition.

Friday's concert at The Livery, presumably, could only be better with both a rehearsal and a performance behind McCue and her band for these two shows.

As she has done before in Goshen, McCue used two local musicians as her rhythm section, bass player Joel Jimenez and drummer Nathan Butler.

Butler replaced Andrew Hauser, who couldn't play Friday's concert at The Livery in Benton Harbor because of a previous commitment and therefore opted out of Thursday's, too.

But Hauser was at Ignition, and McCue asked him to join the band for several songs to sing harmony and play tambourine and shaker. As was the case in November 2012, Hauser's vocals enriched such songs as "I Want You Back," "Driving Down Alvarado," "Hellfire Raiser" and "Stupid," giving the sound added depth and warmth.

Butler, whose near-constant smile showed he was having a blast, fit right in with McCue and Jimenez, and his choice of sticks, brushes and mallets and the touch he brought to how he used each of them provided true support to each song.

Jimenez's bass playing gave McCue a solid groove of a foundation against which she could solo on the more rock-oriented songs, while his use of an upright bass on three new songs fit their acoustic jazz settings.

With the opening procession of "I Want You Back," "Driving Down Alvarado" and "Hellfire Raiser," McCue gave the audience an early indication of her gifts as a lead guitarist, both with how powerful she can be but also with how tasteful and thematic she always is. She rarely lets loose with a flurry of notes -- although she can, as she's demonstrated before with her covers of Jimi Hendrix songs -- and instead plays for feeling and tone, qualities that were on abundant display Thursday night.

"Hellfire Raiser" featured a great buildup of tension in her guitar solo, especially at the end of the song, while the night's fourth song, the slow, hesitating blues "Habit," featured a solo that moved from the sadness of bent and vibrato notes to angry double-stops, glissandi and aggressive picking.

Her use of either a flanger or a phaser on her guitar added sonic depth to "Stupid," while her only occasional playing of a full chord -- for the most part, she arpeggiated the notes on the three bass strings of the guitar -- made "Motorcycle Dreams" sound ominous.

For Tony Joe White's "As the Crow Flies," one of McCue's effects pedals turned the three high strings of the guitar into super-deep bass strings, which made her solo sound otherworldly, as in death itself, which is not meant as a negative criticism. Elsewhere on that song, her she achieved excellent tone and control with her wah-wah pedal.

McCue's slide playing on "Hangman" gave the song a dirty and ugly tone, like the song's subject matter -- a lynching by the Ku Klux Klan.

The highlight of the night, however, came from four new songs that will appear on "Blue Sky Thinkin'," the album she has slated for a September release.

Based on Confucius' advice for how to prepare for revenge, "Dig Two Graves" sets its seemingly humorous but actually serious and cautionary lyrics against a fantastic swinging jazz rhythm, while the mid-tempo jazz-blues of "Things You Left Out in the Rain" displays Charlie Christian's influence on McCue as a writer and guitarist as she delivers piercing lyrics about being abandoned by a lover.

By contrast, the finger-picked country-blues song "Spring Cleaning in the Wintertime" has a loping, optimistic rhythm and style reminiscent of Mississippi John Hurt's music (as does the older "Milkman's Daughter"), while "Little White Cat" is a buoyant, jazzy celebration of life that features a joyous guitar solo that reflects the tone of the song and its lyrics.

In some ways, these songs represent a dramatic departure for McCue with their jazz-based foundations, but in other ways, they simply utilize skills fans are familiar with, such as her versatility as a finger-picker.

Either way, the four songs McCue played Thursday at Ignition, make "Blue Sky Thinkin'" an album worth anticipating before its release. If these are any indication, it should be one of 2014's best albums.

McCue, Jimenez and Butler perform at 9 p.m. Friday at The Livery in Benton Harbor (269-925-8760; liverybrew.com).

If at all possible, don't miss them.

___

(c)2014 the South Bend Tribune (South Bend, Ind.)

Visit the South Bend Tribune (South Bend, Ind.) at www.southbendtribune.com

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Source: South Bend Tribune (IN)


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