Singer-songwriter Eliza Lynn could teach most bands a thing or two about how to throw a CD-release party. Her Sept. 26 launch of The Weary Wake Up was, well … a party.
The Grey Eagle was packed, newcomer duo Quick Six (Chris Padgett and Melissa McGinley) opened, and the audience ran the gamut of families, young artist-types and middle-aged men in Hawaiian shirts. There were, notably, a lot of Hawaiian shirts present.
But once Lynn started playing, it became clear that she not only can pull a diverse crowd; she appeals to listeners across decades and genre lines. It might be because her soulful, bluesy, folk-rock style isn’t immediately definable and so fans of all of these schools can claim the singer-songwriter as their own. More likely, it’s because Lynn performs with such whole-hearted exuberance that — say what you will about folk/Americana/roots music — you can’t listen to her without getting caught up in her gravitational pull. And for a petite person, she’s a force to be reckoned with.
Genre-defying and enthusiastic feats aside, Lynn also has a star-studded cast of friends willing to back her up in the recording studio and on stage. The CD release party featured her band (Sean Foley on keyboard, Mike Alexander on bass, Jon Corbin on guitar and drummer Ian Cunningham). Special guests included blues harmonica diva Jill Fromewick, vocalist Stephanie Morgan, Chuck Lichtenberger on keys and a Virginia-based banjo player virtuoso who composed a banjo suite for the evening.
To which Lynn herself performed a modern and African-inspired dance.
Yes, danced. Lynn, a former dancer with Common Ground, also performed a choreographed African-inspired piece to a recorded version of one of her own songs (accompanied by local dance luminaries). Swing dance instructors Jaya Dorf and Michael Gamble cut a rug, and Salsa teacher Maria Voisin took part in a sassy trio with two other dancers.
By the finale, the entire audience was on its feet.
So, was it the most technically great musical performance to stand on the Grey Eagle stage? No. But Eliza Lynn’s CD-release party was easily the most inspired and inspiring show I’ve seen for some time. If Lynn has something to show her fellow musicians, it’s how to really go for it, what ever it may be.
—Alli Marshall, A&E reporter