Random acts

Of note

Magnificent seven: • Local “western-wave” front-runners Wayne Robbins & The Hellsayers recently announced plans to release their first official recording before summer’s end. Although details are murky, Robbins has stated that the yet-to-be-titled album is planned as a seven-song demo. For more information, visit www.goodluckcricket.com.

• Be on the lookout for the debut recording by The Devil Punchers; their seven-song rock, poetry and hip-hop experiment Live and Random has recently been released. For more information, e-mail the band at tobychoo@hotmail.com.

• Asheville-based dark instrumentalists Descolada have recently released their first official live recording. Live at Area:45 presents seven songs from the group as recorded and mastered by Laine Pierce of Starlight Studios. For more information, e-mail descoladanc@yahoo.com.

Front-row reviews

Who: Juliana Finch

Where: Beanstreets

When: Friday, June 20

When she sings, her voice emerging in a hail of whispers and bellows, Juliana Finch shines.

Playing to this crowd of friends, acquaintances and random passersby in her last regular performance at Beanstreets, Finch displayed a luster rarely witnessed at other local shows.

In less than a week, she’d be leaving Asheville to return home to Atlanta. It was easy to get the feeling, as this crowd teased and played off her, that she’d be missed.

As with a lot of young singer/songwriters, much of Finch’s music delves into that well-explored territory of heartbreak, falling for someone new, and those other turmoils de amor.

However, unlike a great many such musicians, Finch employs a diverse set of dramatic lenses for spotlighting these well-worn subjects.

Take, for instance, the song “The Tip of my Tongue,” about the stuttering inability to express oneself in the presence of a love interest. Finch’s very humanizing take on this universal humiliation makes her seem both strong and vulnerable: She’s quite confident expressing her extreme lack of confidence.

Other Finch tunes, such as “Love and War,” have become well known via the singer’s open-mic and every-third-Friday performances at Beanstreets. Her covers, including John Mayer’s “Your Body Is a Wonderland” and a nearly funk take on the jazz standard “Summertime,” gave this audience a taste of how broad a stylistic range she can handle.

But many people that night seemed shocked that the singer, by day one of Beanstreets’ baristas, had skills beyond the espresso machine. At a relatively young age, Finch has already established herself at the singer/songwriter-friendly Beanstreets, and the evening’s crowd was peppered with notables from the local folk scene.

The 20-year-old performer borrows from a variety of sources, combining visceral blues phrasing with the intimacy of a breathy, modern-folk songstress. Finch’s other musical interest, the black-comedy charm of Irish folk ballads, rounds her style out nicely.

“There are two kinds of Irish songs,” Finch noted at one point during her show. “Those where people die and it’s sad, and those where they die and it’s funny.”

That kind of between-song stage banter — along with the almost self-effacing demeanor she presented as a table of friends indulged in a bit of good-natured, farewell-show heckling — kept Finch’s performance entertaining throughout its entirety. To her credit, she included a great many songs that weren’t about deeply personal heartbreak. These ranged from funny covers like “Love Potion Number Nine” and “David Duchovny” (Bree Sharp’s ode to the X-Files star) to Finch’s own musical adaptation of the Yeats poem “The Stolen Child.”

Perhaps the show’s most memorable moment came a few songs before the end, when Finch covered Melissa Ferrick’s dark, assertively sexual “Drive.”

Both before and after she delivered the tune, Finch waxed apologetic for turning from a coy young musician into a sultry, controlled folk rocker. At the song’s end, after a final breathy whisper and a slightly dissonant guitar chord, with her friends and a room full of strangers looking on, it was all Juliana Finch could do to smile.

For more information, visit www.julianafinch.com.


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