Don’t ask me how Aly Tadros, Alyse Black, and Sarah Peacock managed to pull it off. The three share a natural songwriting talent and vocal skills, but could not be more different artistically.
Even though I’m tired of up-and-coming artists doing “collaborative show” after “collaborative show” instead of focusing on their own stuff — somehow these three singer-songwriters created magic with the simplicity of a good verse-chorus-verse and the balls needed to rock the house.
They sang their own and one another’s songs (taking turns providing back-up vocals and harmonies), and each had a chance to shine by herself, with or without the solid rhythmic section of Juke Wyatt on bass and Tom Dupree III on drums. Originally planned for three sets of 50-ish minutes, the show ended up as two concentrated, enjoyable sets of about an hour each, and the night never seemed long.
Not that she necessarily cares, but the Atlanta-born, Nashville-based, alternative-country-flavored Peacock (check out her solid Straight for Your Heart) seems to have all the ingredients for superstardom: hymn-like songs, a tremendous voice that hits every note (equal parts Janis, Alanis, and Heart’s Ann Wilson), and — in the context of this show — an ability to enrich other people’s song with tasteful, precise guitar fillers. In the moving “Marine Man” she asked and got an applause for “our men who serve,” and ended with the sing-along “Dream Bigger.” She stopped short of saying “if you work hard enough, you will make it,” thank God, but nevertheless she’s a vocal powerhouse who plays with conviction.
No matter how hard Black (Austin via Seattle) tries to shake off her smoke-filled jazz-bar image, she’s nothing but jazz, even when she’s not doing jazz. But her keyboard work is a combination of simple chords economically and tastefully placed in the most illogical, unpredictable parts, and her songs flow with a groove all her own. She’s often and obviously compared to Tori Amos or Norah Jones, but somehow, especially in the ballads, she makes me think of a whispering Björk on the verge of a laugh attack (she’s constantly smiling, as if in a trance). Her songs swallow you whole, and there’s nothing you can do about it.
Aly Tadros — whose fine debut album, Things Worth Keeping, will be released in August — is no longer the up-and-coming Laredo-born fingerpicker who started making the rounds two years ago in San Antonio. After a little more than a year in Austin, she’s become an aggressive performer. She started her set with a fierce version of the usually mild “Linger,” using her third arm (her right heel, which she uses as percussion sparingly but always at the right time), and her acoustic songs became larger than life in a full-band format.
Black told the audience that “Blood & Wine,” a new song, “should be in a movie by Tim Burton,” and I imagined Bela Lugosi in Ed Wood saying, “Bevare ... ! Bevare ... ! These girls have songs ... ”
Yes, enough of them to go it alone as well.