Chelsea Crowell at The Slaughtered Lamb, London, England, 10/26/2011
I caught Chelsea Crowell’s show at The Slaughtered Lamb in London this past Wednesday. She had just flown in from Ireland after a couple of weeks on the road with her dad, Rodney Crowell. She was in London to play two shows, and from there she was set to go to Paris, then back to Ireland in November. Eventually, she’ll make her way back to the U.S. to tour in support of her new record, Crystal City. You can read my advance review of that record here. In sum, I’ll just say that the record is unique, and one of the best I’ve heard in 2011. I was happy that my schedule allowed me the opportunity to see her play some of it live this early in the game.
The Slaughtered Lamb is a lively twenty-something pub/bar upstairs. Downstairs, it is has an intimate listening room, a living-roomesque music mini-venue with sofas and chairs and a small bar. The venue also has a neon pentagram sign that never lit up despite Ms. Crowell’s repeated requests that it do so. The room was just about full as she took the stage as the third of three acts that evening in brown boots just above the knee, a black & white animal print blouse/jacket and a pretty cool scarf with tassels on the end. She had to give up the scarf before it was over after telling the audience that someone (I think she said Steve Earle) once said it isn’t a show unless you sweat a bit.
After the show we talked for a minute. She said she thought the show was “rough,” meaning, I suppose, that her act isn’t quite polished as it will become as she continues the touring process. It did seem a bit ad hoc, but rough it was not. Ms. Crowell played for us much as she would play if we were sitting in her living room, which seemed appropriate in this small venue as I sat on a couch with a couple of other music fans. It was a fairly short show – she played 11 songs by my count, with a mix of a couple of her new songs, some of her old stuff, and some well-selected covers.
Ms. Crowell’s manner on stage is casual and friendly, even a bit self-deprecating, but when she starts singing, she really owns what she sings. A highlight of the evening for me was her performance of Tecumseh Valley, the Townes Van Zandt song. There’s something poignant about a woman singing that song with its lyrics about female desperation, and she does a very nice job with the song. The audience, a music savvy group (which included band members from the two prior acts), was completely taken by her.
Ms. Crowell concluded with Stuff That Works, a song written by her dad and Guy Clark (she politely corrected me on Twitter when I said Guy Clark wrote it – as I should have known, they did co-write it and both released the song in the mid-90’s). She had announced this as the last song, and she received a very nice applause from the audience. Then, a moment or two after the applause died (Ms. Crowell was already starting to pack up), someone asked for one more song. The crowd joined in the request and next thing you know, Ms. Crowell and her accompanying guitarist Colm O’Herlihy are playing just one more song, this time completely unplugged. Quite casual and quite nice, actually. But not rough.
Mando Lines is on Twitter @mando_lines. You can follow Chelsea Crowell on Twitter as well, @cjanecrowell.