Meredith Louise Miller / Mary Cutrufello – The Aardvark (Fort Worth, TX)
The poster always catches my attention — Mary Cutrufello with her head back, one arm on the guitar neck, the other behind her and she’s leaning waaaaay back. I’ve often pondered whether it was a staged photo or if the music was really inspiring such a delivery.
The Aardvark, formerly The Hop, a longtime hangout for students of Texas Christian University just down the street, is the site of my verification process. The last band I heard at this small, intimate club was Timbuk 3 — long before they had a need to wear shades. Other than a few regulars, the crowd consists of about seven Meredith Louise Miller fans and an equal number of Cutrufello fans. Having not seen either performer previously, I’m neutral, though I’ve heard compliments of both.
As soon as Cutrufello hits the stage , I am no longer wondering. She didn’t waste a moment: Set up, check the equipment, and POW, she’s off like a bottle rocket, zillions of sparks and fire lighting up the joint up, explosions ringing gloriously in my ears.
Cutrufello moves about the small stage in an uncontained whirlwind. (The thought occurs that someone had a heck of a time ever taking the photo for the poster.) She rolls out a thick, rich guitar sound that rings with clarity. Sadly, the sound system did not deliver on the vocals; although the whiskey-laced voice was distinguishable, the words were muddy.
Given the zip with which Cutrufello performs, it takes a while to realize that almost all her songs are rather similar. This is not altogether a negative; most people like that which is familiar, much like a favorite stretch of road that you’re experiencing from behind the wheel of a new sports car — a comfortable classic enjoyed with an all-new perspective. Her last tune, introduced as a song co-written with Steve Earle, was performed solo and was a fitting conclusion to an inspired show. Though I’m not one to expect truth in advertising, I’ll believe Ms. Cutrufello’s poster from now on.
Miller’s began with Tom Waits’ “San Diego Serenade” and ended with Hank Williams’ “Your Cheatin’ Heart”. The middle was filled with an excellent selection of songs from her current release, Ifihadahifi, and a couple of newer numbers. Performing sans band, she delivered a set of superb quality, highlighting her exceptional songwriting. It would be an oversight not to mention her voice. Although somewhat hesitant in spots about her guitar playing, Miller’s singing was strong, clear and vibrant, a stellar point of a fine evening of music.