The Girls Room – Amy Correia / Kendall Payne / Tara MacLean / Shannon McNally – 3rd & Lindsley (Nashville, TN)
If nothing else, one must admire the conception of this tour: Four artists of varying degrees of invisibility, sharing backing musicians, playing a month’s worth of free shows, with a local opening act in each city. Naturally, it’s underwritten by their record label, and a maker of feminine products.
It’s an old adage, people only buy the music they hear.
Which only works, of course, if the music is worth hearing. Happily, all four women have strong and interesting voices. Hopefully, they will come to write (or find) songs that are as compelling.
That’s less of a problem for Amy Correia, who began the proceedings, principally accompanied by an imp on a silver cello, and revealed herself already to be an accomplished songwriter. During her short set, she channeled an alcoholic Korean war veteran whose apartment she acquired in New York (“Chinatown”), previewed the tour’s most catchy song (“Daydream Car”, which might do for her what “Fast Car” did for Tracy Chapman), then concluded with a stunning re-creation of Edith Piaf, in what sounded to be spotless French.
Kendall Payne already has placed a song (“Supermodels”) as the theme song of “Popular”, a WB-TV teen show. Her songs are full of the idealism of a 20-year-old, which may serve her well in the pop marketplace for the moment. Her voice comes from a much older place, and should survive the blandishments of fame quite nicely.
Only Sarah McLachlan and Tara MacLean appeared on all three Lilith’s Fair tours, which makes MacLean the most established figure of this foursome. Her songs favor atmospheric vocal histrionics that are showy but not very substantial.
Buoyed by a backing band that included Neal Casal (bass) and Don Heffington (drums), Shannon McNally pursued twin passions for country and Southern soul. Reputedly discovered by Margo Timmins in Philadelphia, McNally has a rich and rewarding voice. Her country-flavored songs lacked the power and persuasiveness of her ventures toward Southern soul, but she was also the most poised performer on the stage.
Until, that is, Buddy Miller joined the entire ensemble for their two closing numbers. The troupe had taken to closing their shows with Julie Miller’s “All My Tears”, and Heffington induced Julie’s husband to share the moment. Once the nerves passed, the singers traded verses and microphones with verve and relish.
The evening’s final song, James Brown’s “It’s A Man’s World”, was delivered with utter joy and only the slightest hint of irony. McNally and Payne swapped leads with escalating passion — not a cutting contest, just two gifted young singers seeing where their voices might go. Correia’s voice proved a splendid tonic, and nearly their equal. And then all four slipped to the pool room at the back of the club to sign swag, still smiling.