More evidence that there's something very wrong: how come only 35 people came out to see Miss Tess and her newest band tear down the UU church in Marblehead?? OK, the traffic was even worse than on a normal Friday night (things get crazy on school vacation week), but besides that small point the stars were aligned and yet no one except a few delighted regulars saw one of the best young female blues singers I know. And labeling her with a genre is misleading, her new album of covers (including one cover of herself) touches on Ted Hawkins, Randy Newman, Willie, Bonnie, Hank, and Neil Young. Eclectic yes, but in addition her song on the record is as good as any of theirs. And she proved that Friday night.
Emily Elbert opened and was pretty hot herself. She's got great vocal and guitar technique (being a Berklee product), but needs to put the two together a bit better. She's working hard at it and gave us a well-wrought, professional set, possibly one of the best opening sets I've seen at the Me and Thee Coffeehouse.
After a short break Miss Tess came out with "The Talkbacks," though the band has a new guitarist and bassist in Thomas Eaton and Jeremy McDonald, as well as long-time drummer Matt Meyer. They were all excellent and I'd have to say that her band is much better than it was last summer. McDonald alternated between standup and electric bass, and added some sweet baritone vocals. Eaton played some hot rockabilly licks and this was what was missing to my ear ... Miss Tess did some great jazz-blues-torch stuff earlier in her career but her voice sounds best when she's rocking out and taking names. I think this was the first drum kit I'd heard at the M&T and Meyer was just fantastic, he could have accompanied her well all by himself.
We were in the first row of course and had a bit of dialog with the band, who must have been dismayed by the small house but were nearing the end of a long tour and seemed to be enjoying a night without a lot of pressure. They covered almost all of the new record, and then delved into some new songs and some old songs, which to my delight included Adeline, Don't Tell Mama, and People Come Here For Gold. They encored with Darling Oh Darling and got a standing ovation from the small crowd.
Had a brief chat with Miss Tess and then took off for home after a long week.