There’s no warmup for singer/songwriter Andrea Lee, no plying lukewarm numbers before presenting the audience at Green Sage Coffee House & Cafe with the good stuff. She’s ready from the first note, working the crowd with her slow crooning mingled with rising crescendos.
Although at a recent show, it was just Lee and her guitar, the performer wears many musical hats in her career: singer, songwriter, six- and 12-string guitarist, keyboard player and percussionist. Standing confidently in front of the mike, long brown hair loose beneath a retro black cap, it’s clear she has the stage presence and charisma of an indie music diva. She doesn’t shy away from the clapping that follows her songs, offering the audience a quick smile and “thank you.”
Other burgeoning artists could learn a thing or two from Lee’s relaxed, easygoing persona. She introduces each song by name, and playfully responds to listeners’ comments. She’s equally laid-back about her musical genre. A recent transplant from Syracuse, N.Y., Lee characterizes her style as indie/rock/psychedelic. While “indie” and “rock” fit Lee’s carefully cultivated sound, psychedelic music lovers may not get quite what they’re expecting. Read: Head elsewhere for your Pink Floyd and Cream fix.
But if dreamy music for a rainy evening is what you’re after, Lee’s got it. Her dusky voice, a strong alto occasionally on the rise for high notes, slides effortlessly from quiet and retrospective to compellingly powerful. Her music has the lazy, Saturday-night drawl of Norah Jones minus the jazzy influence and occasionally (as is the case with the tune, “Without a Lightswitch”) a haunting lilt reminiscent of Enya. Lee sings winsome songs about relationships, love, and other afflictions of the human condition.
While Lee’s voice and playing charmed the listeners at Green Sage, the venue doesn’t live up to the musician. Lee performed at the very heart of the space, issuing note after note not at the audience, but straight into the wall in front of her. From my seat in the corner—the very corner, in fact, where former Bean Street artistes braved open-mike night—I strained my ears to understand what Lee sang and said. After a quick relocation, I discovered that the building’s east side possesses far better acoustics. Still, Green Sage would do well to reconfigure both the stage and the speakers to face the audience.
Stage setup aside, Lee has already garnered a Twin Rivers Media Festival songwriting award and is putting her efforts into an album at her home studio. It seems she’s come to Asheville intent on placing her personal stamp on the local music scene.
[Andrea Lee returns to the Green Sage Coffee House & Cafe on Friday, Oct. 17. The 8 p.m. show is free.]