Wednesday, April 9, 2008

AUDRA MAE @ Genghis Cohen

Audra Mae
Audra Mae
photograph by PICKSYSTICKS

Usually, I’ll catch up listening to new music on Myspace, playing songs from new artists as I cook, do laundry or clean. And while doing my daily chores, I’ll hear a song that makes me stop and immediately go to my computer and replay the song and read up on the particular singer or band. Every so often, I’ll hear an artist that cuts to my very soul. Last week, this happened when a singer named Audra Mae came streaming through my speakers.

Described by most as a cross between Patsy Cline and Janis Joplin, its Mae’s weathered voice that distinctively stands out. Not since listening to a Nina Simone album for the first time have I reacted so deeply with an emotion so deep.

Audra Mae
Audra Mae

Growing up in Oklahoma, Audra Mae listened to the likes of Patsy Cline, Hank Williams, Ella Fitzgerald and Billie Holiday. Self-taught in guitar and piano Mae moved to Los Angeles to pursue her music career and was noticed one night by a Warner/Chappell rep who signed her to an artist development deal. Belonging to a fine lineage of great performers, Mae reportedly is the great-grandniece of Judy Garland, first cousin (twice removed) of Liza Minnelli and the great-granddaughter of Garland's big band leader, Bobby Sherwood.

It’s hard to believe, but for 24, Audra Mae’s voice bleeds with restrained heartbreak – something only those who have gone through a lifetime’s worth of heartache can only experience. Her songs are simple and bittersweet yet complex like a fine intricate web. You see, before watching her live, all I had heard were Mae’s songs from her myspace page. Most were sad ballads that were usually accompanied by a single instrument – either by the sounds of a delicate piano like in “Be Still” or by the whispers of a shy guitar as evidenced in “Turn Around.” And in a subtle tribute to her great aunt, Mae’s hypnotic voice in “Ruby Shoes” just captivates. Mae’s strengths rely on weaving inspiring melodies that express a tragic melancholy, proving that simplicity, to the point of near silence, can hold the purest of emotions.

So imagine my surprise Saturday night when I had the pleasure of watching Ms. Mae at her normal stomping ground, Genghis Cohen. Expecting a sad set of emotional music, what I got was a more upbeat acoustic-country-rock set. I was pleasantly surprised and even though I was looking forward to hearing the songs I became familiar with, I enjoyed these songs equally as much. If her songs are a sneak peek as to what is to come from Audra Mae then I am truly looking forward to her upcoming album.

Next show: April 22 @ Hotel Cafe

Check out the rest of the pics of Ms. Mae at Genghis Cohen in our pics page HERE.