Cold Specks, Doug Burr Dan's Silverleaf Tuesday, November 13
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It was a fascinating mix of old, weird folk last night, as Dan's Silverleaf hosted Cold Specks with opener Doug Burr. And while both acts feature deeply spiritual music, they come from two somewhat different perspectives. Burr is deeply ingrained in the Southern spiritual narrative and a practicing believer. Al Spx, Cold Specks' frontwoman, is just as spiritual, but as she's hinted at in interviews, she's lost her faith or, at the very least, is on the business end of a spiritual crisis.
Cold Specks' set was full of contradictions, from the electric guitars to the field recording ambiance of the vocals, to the pounding drums and soft keyboards, down to a single line: "I am a goddamned believer." But her band, featuring Rob Ellis from PJ Harvey on drums, was always graceful.
The gospel feel of their debut album, I Predict A Graceful Expulsion, is somewhat missing in the live set. Spx seemed to be searching for it herself, as her eyes darted around the room. But repeated mentions of "Blank Maps" and "Graceful Expulsions" revealed a disconnect in the music, even as her soulful rasp pointed home. The reference to a lack of direction or being pushed away from home created a heavy weight for the music, but not everything about her set was dark. After a bad day on the road, which involved breaking the key to their merch case, leaving them unable to sell CDs, she practically begged someone in the audience to share some pot after the show. They even broke out a cover of the theme to The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.
In contrast to Cold Specks' set, there's an inherent calm when Doug Burr sings. There's a devoutness to his music that creates a different kind of mystery, with just a hint of peace. Burr's sets shouldn't be surprising to any of us by this point. He's been one of the most consistent performers in the region for the past decade. Joined by longtime sideman Glen Farris and former Lonelies cohort Dave Sims, Burr was as captivating as ever. It almost doesn't matter if he's singing about a "Black Wave Coming" or wedding bells chiming through the tree tops.