Since I discovered Melissa Carper's excellent 2021 album Daddy's Country Gold and Brennen Leigh's also excellent 2022 album Obsessed with the West, I've wanted to see them but kept seeing separate tours skirting New England. When I saw that the two of them were doing a handful of Northeast dates, and were playing as a trio with alternative country icon Kelly Willis, I knew I couldn't miss out.
The only date that worked out for me was at Charles River Museum of Industry & Innovation, which I was excited about. It's a museum dedicated to American industry from the 1800s to today in a converted mill, and performances are held in the old boiler room with forty foot high ceilings. It's an interesting and unique space for a concert, and somehow the sound was perfect in a giant brick room certainly not designed for music.
For their ninety minute set, Willis, Leigh, and Carper rotated songs, starting with Leigh's "Blue Eyed Dog," then "Fool's Paradise" by Willis, and Carper's "Back When." They did this throughout their entire set, telling stories behind the songs and making the type of jokes friends do at each other's expense. It was a fun night of music, and you could tell the three just enjoy playing with each other. There was a great moment after they played "Billy & Beau" that was written by Leigh and Carper where Willis mentioned that her song "What the Heart Doesn't Know" had similar lyrics ("The heart wants to go where the heart wants to go" versus "The heart doesn't know what the heart doesn't know") and joked about how the lawsuit was affecting the tour. There was also a great moment when we all discovered Willis is a Trekkie when Carper's "Makin' Memories" turned up in Star Trek: Strange New Worlds.
The three played a show effortlessly together, with perfect harmonies and all three equally sharing the spotlight. What sticks out the most from the evening is how amazing of a guitar player Brennen Leigh is. She shined with a solo in virtually every song without taking anything away from the vocals. Also, I knew Melissa Carper had an amazing voice, but live it is just mesmerizing.
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