The French Broad Brewery and Tasting Room is a pretty innocuous establishment. Children, pets and Brews Cruise tourists pack the cozy space. Even so, singer/songwriter Lyndsay Wojcik—she of the Noxzema complexion and shiny locks—looks like she might be more at home at a horse show than on stage at a bar.
And then she starts singing. Wojcik’s voice is sweetly soft, but tempered with a smoky hoarseness usually accompanied by a three-pack-a-day habit. And her lyrics: A Lyndsay Wojcik song without a drinking reference, it turns out, is as rare is a Bud Light in a craft brewery. Not that that’s a bad thing.
“Blue Moon Highways,” she tells the audience (and the place is packed at 6 p.m. on a Saturday), is about a homeless man called Radical Bill who hung out near her campsite and routinely drank all her beer. Adopting the “if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em” approach, Wojcik decided to spend a day boozing with Bill and, mid-bender, composed the “Me and Bobby McGee”-esque tune. “We know what life is for, it’s for drinkin’ and smokin’ and laughing ‘till our bellies ache,” she sings. “‘Cause we like floating downstream, living the dream, driving down this blue moon highway.”
After the initial shock of Wojcik’s good girl/bad girl dichotomy wears off, it’s apparent the singer is at home behind the mike and her blue acoustic guitar. She has an easy stage presence, joking and offering anecdotes, dedicating songs to friends in the audience and speaking directly to a wide-eyed pre-schooler (sort of like the anti-heroine in “Meet Virginia,” “She likes babies and surprises …”). Wojcik also has a knack for branding herself: Her gig posters feature her, barefoot, in a white sundress. She sells discs out of a suitcase painted with flowers. Her most recent CD is titled Local Honey. The performer depicts herself as a free spirit; an image fitting with her musical style which calls to mind a less-tortured Janis Joplin, a more delicate Bonnie Raitt, and Joan Osborne and Jewel at the beginning of their respective careers when they both dabbled in heartfelt takes on blue-eyed soul.
While Wojcik is compelling and consistent throughout her set—her style is defined by a bouncy, three-chord progression—she really comes into her own on her state-of-the-world numbers, “Revelation” and “The Necessary Solution is a Revolution.” Here, she allows a funkier, darker voice to emerge, underscoring her political and spiritual credos with appealingly rich vocals. Few people can successfully pull off political songs: Wojcik aces the material.
She does, however, have a secret weapon. Local bassist-about-town Bryan White (The Leigh Glass Band, Done for the Evening, Brushfire) fills out Wojcik’s soul-folk with a tasteful bottom-end. He’s the kind of musician who knows how to add just enough without needing to show off, and yet at just the right moments he steps in with goose-pimple-inducing solos. Though it was obviously Wojcik’s show, a song or two by White would have rounded the evening out nicely. Happily, the bass player recently revealed on his MySpace site that he has plans to release a solo CD in early 2009.
[Lyndsay Wojcik plays ED Boudreaux’s on Thursday, Jan. 15 (296-0100), and the French Broad Brewery on Thursday, Jan. 22 (277-0222).]