Monday, October 18, 2010

Show review: Rose Cousins, Edie Carey at SPACE, 10/14

Posted by Sasha

The candlelit back room of SPACE holds the perfect air for these kinds of softly intimate songs, spun by prolific acoustic/folk songwriters Rose Cousins and Edie Carey. Given the right quiet, both can fill a room floor-to-ceiling with nothing but their voice over gently strummed acoustic chords. The sit-down calm of Evanston's gem of a venue housed their sound perfectly as they played to a full and attentive crowd.

While Rose Cousins took the stage first, it'd be wrong to call her the opener. She and Carey have been best friends in the business for some time now. The music of each fit so neatly beside the other that the evening felt unified, more like two friends sharing the latest of their songwriting fruits than a sequence of performances. Cousins began solo, the unflappable wit of her intersong banter contrasting with her sung solemnity.

"I didn't realize we were dressing for a funeral," joked Cousins about her and Carey's matching black dresses. She's got quite the stage presence, funny as hell, bringing the quiet crowd to swells of laughter. Behind her guitar, she's a faraway presence, singing as if from her home in Prince Edward Island, Canada. There's an undercurrent of yearning in her melodies as they weave across such subjects as loss and new beginnings, death and weddings, all carried by an expert craft. The audience sung along to the wordless chorus of "I Were a Bird" and ceased to be merely observing from outside the barrier of the stage; they were sharing, they were part of the event of the song. Cousins doesn't invite singalongs just to see if she can, but to include the room in what she's making in the moment.

When Edie Carey took the stage, more often than not she was accompanied by Cousins, who on piano and guitar rounded out the simple compositions. Harmonies nested in the golden tone of twin Martin guitars lifted the songs to steady heights, and I felt fortunate to be privy to these moments of creation between friends. That sort of human connection powers Carey's lyrics--she's written songs as gifts, as engagement congratulations, as solace. Even at her most introspective, she's creating directly for someone else. Indeed, if Carey's not writing to people she knows, she's writing for characters from fiction that fascinate her. In one of the most moving pieces of the evening, Carey performed what she called a lullaby for Dwayne from the film "Little Miss Sunshine"--though, she added, it was also a lullaby for anyone who's ever been 15 and felt the way he did on the side of the highway, screaming for his suddenly nullified dreams.

And that's the essence of what makes Edie Carey so widely endearing as a performer. The strength in her writing stems from the ability to take specific, personal moments and render them in such a way that the listener feels like part of them. We can picture ourselves in Italy, 20, broke and in love, because of the simplicity and honesty that define her lyrics. Freed from the confines of a recording and humming in the open air, Carey's songs feel even warmer, more familiar and personal. She's as comfortable onstage as if she were visiting with friends and playing old songs written about shared memories.

Edie Carey will be touring the US in support of her new album until December 7th. Tour dates are available at her website, and the record can be pre-ordered (with plenty of extras) here.

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