Last year Lewis's main band, Rilo Kiley, made waves with their third album, More Adventurous, mixing indie rock with country tinges. For her debut solo release, Rabbit Fur Coat, the American has gone down an even more classic-sounding road, aided by Kentucky gospel duo The Watson Sisters. The album is credited to all three, with further collaborations including singer-songwriter Conor "Bright Eyes" Oberst.
At the Spitz, in a kind of homage to O Brother, Where Art Thou?, the three emerged from the audience sighing repeatedly, "Run, devil, run." Her fans now in thrall, Lewis let the songs do the talking. Saying next to nothing in between songs, the former child actor sang with the purity of a young Patsy Cline, something useful on the quieter numbers, especially the delicate, misleadingly named "Happy". Just as diffident were the Sisters, who claim not to be related yet shared many mannerisms.
Whereas on the album cover they pout together like surly rock sirens, on stage they stood primly. Their vocals, effortlessly reaching the same notes in uncanny fashion, fleshed out Lewis's gentle tones. Occasional light percussion was just as weirdly in sync. Further subtle backing came from pedal steel and, sulking in the background on guitar, Lewis's boyfriend, Johnathan Rice.
It was a basic line-up, yet supple enough to give contrast and colour. On record, Lewis's voice is limited to a cutesy lilt with often inconsequential backing. Here, skeletal arrangements made each song a masterclass in control. The melancholy "Rise up with Fists", which mixed belligerence with wry humour, showed off her writing skills. The dry, anti-religion "Born Secular" was transformed into a moving atheist hymn, and closed the set.
They also sang, voices echoing, as they exited. They returned to click fingers and sing a cappella The Shirelles' "I Met Him on a Sunday", popularised by Lewis's heroine, the cult singer-songwriter Laura Nyro. This heartfelt pastiche worked better in the flesh when you could feel Lewis's sincerity more.
Then the whole troupe sang the rousing old-time revival hymn "Cold Jordan", with Rice giving his own bristling take on Oberst's drawl. Sharing a microphone, Rice and Lewis resembled a fresh-faced Johnny Cash and June Carter.Reuse content