There was quite a turnout at The Grey Eagle on Thursday night for New Orleans-based Hurray For The Riff Raff. The band is the project of the magnetic, 26-year-old powerhouse singer-songwriter, Alynda Lee Segarra. The fact that the folk-blues Americana band drew such a large, very attentive and engaged audience is no surprise. In addition to opening for Shovels and Rope last February in Asheville, the band had a breakout year in 2013 with a buzz-inducing performance at Newport Folk Festival. And its new album, Small Town Heroes, has brought on similar international acclaim.
Not to mention, in this town, it’s hard not to fall in love with a musician who has a song with the lyrics, “My heart is a Blue Ridge Mountain,” a killer band complete with fiddle and organ and a cat-eyed, sultry-voiced frontwoman who self-identifies as an underdog. Throw in Segarra’s Body Electric Fund Indiegogo campaign, an effort to raise awareness and education surrounding violence against women, as well as racial, ethnic and gender profiling — and the audience was totally under Segarra’s spell. (In a very good way.)
Segarra kicked off the show with a solo performance of “The New SF Bay Blues,” and followed that up — to the delight and foot-stomping of concertgoers — with a full-band rendition of “Blue Ridge Mountain.” Both these tunes, along with a good portion of the set list, are on her latest album. She also played a few brand new songs, as well as some of her earlier work. Fans were clearly well versed in her discography, and sang along to favorites like “I Know It’s Wrong (But That’s Alright),” “Little Black Star,” and the title track, “Small Town Heroes.” Her one cover for the night — a Lucinda Williams song — felt right at home alongside a set list full of tunes that ranged from bluesy and introspective to gritty and danceable.
What perhaps shown through the most was Segarra’s appreciation and strong bond with her fans. When she says “these songs are for you,” you get the feeling she really means it.