The posters on the wall outside advertise her as an "outstanding blues guitarist" but that's only half the story about Anne McCue.
The posters on the wall outside advertise her as an "outstanding blues guitarist" but that's only half the story about Anne McCue. Her songs are a fusion of blues, country, folk and rock, harnessed to world-weary lyrics and a languid voice that speaks of experience. She is a thirty-something Australian who graduated in film production before turning to music, learning her chops in Vietnam, of all places,.
At a packed Borderline, she is dressed in black cowboy shirt and tight jeans. She sings a couple of sensitive acoustic songs - "Crazy Beautiful Child" and "50 Dollar Whore" - that suggest she's a country-folk troubadour. But that thought is swiftly banished when she is joined by a bass-player and drummer. As the tempo increases it's soon clear that she's most at home in a power trio. Songs from her recently released second studio album, Roll, rapidly raise the temperature. There's a brooding intensity to "I Want You Back" and "Nobody's Sleeping", which showcase her bluesy guitar style.
The title track, "Roll", fuelled by McCue's slide guitar, packs more girl-power than The Spice Girls' entire career: "I feel all right for someone who was kicked out of school," she declares. "I feel all right for someone who was told she was a fool/ I feel all right for someone who was pushed around/ I feel all right for someone who was forced to leave town."
McCue's real childhood was somewhat more comfortable. Growing up in Sydney as the youngest of eight children, she moved to Melbourne after graduating in film studies, and worked as a theatre and film critic. Then she answered an ad that read: "Wanted: wild woman for rock'n'roll band" and found herself in a power-pop group. Then she spent a year in Vietnam, developing her hybrid solo style with a hectic schedule of six gigs a week.
Back in Australia, she began making a name for herself on the blues circuit before joining another band, Eden aka, which led to a stint on the Lilith Fair tour and a move to California. But McCue left to record her 2000 solo debut, Amazing Ordinary Things - an album that led to an offer to support Lucinda Williams on tour.
McCue's wealth of experience can be heard in her voice and bittersweet lyrics about love, lust and loss. Like Williams, she wears her emotions on a rock-chick sleeve and sees life through the bottom of an empty bourbon glass. "I wanted to be like Jesus but I turned out like Judas," she drawls in "Gandhi". "I schemed a lot and I cheated my way through/ I lied to me and I lied to you."
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