For the past few years, the folk and Americana genres have been infiltrated by a bunch of artists who are far more flash than substance. This “Genericana” trend is full of pretentious posers who sport banjos and beards as semblances of their authenticity. (I’d use the lipstick on a pig metaphor, but I don’t want to insult pigs. They are awfully smart little critters.)
That’s not to say, though, that good folk music isn’t still happening. Old Black Kettle’s first show in five years this past Saturday night at Nashville’s Station Inn stands as a testament to that fact.
At the heart of OBK is the sweet, sweet harmony between singer/songwriters Julie Lee and Sarah Siskind, two women who know how to craft a song overflowing with substance. Their tunes shine brightly in even the starkest of settings, so imagine them brought to life by some of Music City’s best — Jodi Seyfried added a stunning third vocal layer while Lex Price, Ethan Ballinger, and Jake Bradley contributed stellar, tasteful musical support. (Also didn’t hurt to have Mike Bubb manning the front-of-house mix.)
Though Lee and Siskind are cut from slightly different musical cloths, when they are sewn together as OBK, all you want to do is drape yourself in their splendor. Lee’s palette is chock full of old-time folk and bluegrass, but not without a splash of soulful sass mixed in so that it’s hard to imagine anyone but her fronting “Born to Pine and Sigh.” As a complement, Siskind weaves with more traditional country and Americana threads, as evidenced in the sublime “Some People,” rendered this night so tenderly by Seyfried that both she and Siskind were in tears. Other highlights included “Bravely,” from Lee’s most recent solo set, along with “Wildfire” and “Long Dark Road,” two tunes from OBK’s 2008 live album that found Siskind sounding not unlike Holly Williams.
You could feel the grins from the sold-out crowd as they reveled in not one, but two sets from this reunited Old Black Kettle. The band promised to play again sooner than five years from now, and let’s hope they do. Otherwise, we may all be destined to suffer through the long, painful fade out of Genericana.