Live review: Angela Easterling & the Beguilers at The Showroom, Spartanburg 7/16/2011


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In a recent interview, rising Americana star Angela Easterling said that she had been asked why she chose to have the hometown CD release show for her latest album, “Beguiler,” in Spartanburg and not Greenville, the city in which she actually lives.

Those asking such a question should have been at The Showroom on Saturday; the answer was crystal clear.

Easterling – accompanied by her backing band, The Beguilers – played to a nearly packed house, delivering a fantastic performance that might have been her best ever.

After setting the mood with “American I.D.,” the jangly opening track from her previous album, “BlackTop Road,” Easterling then announced to the crowd – an assortment of family, friends, fans and general lovers of good music – that she and the band would next perform the new album in its entirety from start to finish.

The result was pure musical magic. It wasn’t a show as much as it was an event with some special guests adding to the electric on-stage atmosphere.

Easterling and her cohorts obviously put a lot of effort into the preparation for the hometown CD release concert. Guitarist Brandon Turner, drummer Jeff Hook and bassist Franklin Wilkie are always top-notch musicians, but their collective talent seemed to reach extraordinary heights Saturday.

The songs from Easterling’s very strong new album seemed to sound even better in the live setting; a monumental achievement considering the studio effort included such high-profile instrumentalists as Byron House of Robert Plant’s Band of Joy and producer Will Kimbrough.

Easterling charmed her audience not only with a blissful mix of original folk-, rock-, pop-, country-, bluegrass- and gospel-tinged music but also with the captivating stories that she told about each of the songs. “Beguiler” is her first “band” album, and she made sure the audience knew that most of the material was written with Turner and Hook – who are featured on the album cover – in mind.

Among the highlights of Saturday’s concert was a surprise guest appearance by Spartanburg guitar slinger Shane Pruitt, who brought an Allman Brothers and Marshall Tucker Band flavor to a couple of the songs.

At one point, there was a fiery exchange of blistering electric guitar solos by Turner and Pruitt during which Easterling looked over her shoulder in amazement as she strummed her acoustic. Afterwards, Easterling said, “Maybe I should go back and record the album again.”

Reprising her contribution to the studio album, Spartanburg songbird Fayssoux McLean – who appeared on Emmylou Harris albums in the 1970s – lent her voice to the proceedings, including a gorgeous duet with Easterling on the Carter Family classic “Anchored in Love.”

After the live recreation of the album was completed, Easterling gave a scorching rendition of “BlackTop Road” and wrapped up the concert with a sparkling-รกversion of Neil Young’s “Helpless.” The latter featured Pruitt on guitar while McLean was joined by 19-year-old twin brothers Dominic and Sean Kelly for some amazing vocal harmonies.

The twins front the Charleston-based folk-pop band A Fragile Tomorrow, and they opened Saturday’s show as a duo under the same name.

Dominic and Sean Kelly, whose ultra tight sibling harmonies alternately channeled the Everly Brothers and the Indigo Girls, surely gained quite a few new fans with their solid performance. It’s worth nothing that the brothers sang on the Indigo Girls’ 2010 live album, “Staring Down the Brilliant Dream.”

Easterling made a guest appearance during A Fragile Tomorrow’s opening slot, joining the brothers for “I Shall Be Released” by Bob Dylan.

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