No matter what style of music you like, chances are Korby Lenker will play it during one of his sets. That was certainly true last night at his Nashville CD release show at the Rutledge. He started the show on his own, with an acoustic rendition of a long-standing favorite, “Cedars of Lebanon,” from his 2007 King of Hearts album. Hearing that song, with a wonderfully tasteful guitar solo tucked inside, it would be very easy to think that the hushed moments are surely going to be the highlights of the evening. Well, no. Yes, but no.
After working through “Gotta Do” on ukulele, Lenker brought his band up for “If I Prove False to You,” a lovely new cut currently enjoying some well-deserved attention from Sirius XM. With those still-quiet numbers out of the way — and his nerves calmed a bit — Lenker and company headed into a slinky, energized version of “Papercuts” filled out by Lucas Leigh’s funky organ. Following two more new tunes (“Hurts Me So” and the Beatles-tinged “April May”), Lenker got to the funky single from the eponymous new album, “Forbidden Fruit.” For anyone who knows Lenker at all, they know this song is thoroughly Korby, in all his wiggly glory. It bops and pops, sputters and spits, all just to see how the listener will respond.
“Late Bloomers,” a co-write with Robby Hecht, and a musical tribute to Sitting Bull paved the way to a fun take on “Got to Be More,” which featured Marion Grace on harmonies and a friend of Lenker’s from Cypher Sundays who threw down a solid freestyle flow. To close the set, Lenker left it all on the field with “Lovers and Fools” that leaned into a blazing piano run by Leigh. (Okay, he didn’t leave it all on the field. He had enough left for the ukulele-fueled “My Little Life.”)
One of the most striking things about seeing Lenker perform is his relationship with his guitar. He doesn’t just play it, he becomes it — or, maybe, it becomes a part of him. The two wriggle and writhe about, bending strings and pressing wood, until the just-right sound emerges. And it always does.
Photo by Buddy Norris.