LIVE: Use Your Voice 2016 Tour @ The Egg, 3/9/16

Sara Watkins
Patty Griffin

Review by Greg Haymes
Photographs by Andrzej Pilarczyk

Veteran Austin-based singer-songwriter Patty Griffin had done the three-singer round-robin tour before – back in 2008 & 2009 with “Three Girls and Their Buddy,” which featured Emmylou Harris, Shawn Colvin and Patty Griffin with guitarist Buddy Miller – and she decided that perhaps this election year was a good time to do it again. So she rounded up Sara Watkins (of Nickel Creek), folk singer-songwriter Anais Mitchell and sublime, versatile guitarist David Pulkingham (last seen in these parts as a member of Alejandro Escovedo’s Sensitive Boys). She enlisted the League of Women Voters in an effort to get folks (especially women, who remain mysteriously under-engaged and under-served) to register to vote in this election cycle. And they hit the road.

By the time they rolled into The Egg’s Hart Theatre, they were hitting on all cylinders. Switching from one instrument to another. For example, during the first round of three songs, Griffin shifted from guitar and lead vocal on her funky opener, “There Isn’t One Way,” to drums on Watkins’ “Lock & Key” to mandolin on Mitchell’s footstompin’ “Dying Day.

They threw in a glorious round of gospel songs, and a round of off-beat covers (Griffin and Pulkingham teaming up for a duet on an old Mexican folk song sung in Spanish; Watkins and Pulkingham duetting on Jimmie Rodgers’ “Any Old Time” country blues; and going the farthest out on the limb, Mitchell serving up an a cappella Egyptian folk song).

They kept politics out of the mix throughout the 17-song, 85-minute concert, but there was no way that you couldn’t connect the dots when during the final round, Mitchell stepped up to the mic to deliver the bold, ominous anthem, “Why We Build the Wall,” a song that she wrote 10 years ago for her folk-opera “Hadestown,” which is slated to open off-Broadway next month:

“Because we have and they have not
Because they want what we have got
The enemy is poverty
And the wall keeps out the enemy
And we build the wall to keep us free
That’s why we build the wall
We build the wall to keep us free…”

Excerpt from Kirsten Ferguson’s review at The Daily Gazette: “In a centerpiece of the show, the women traded gospel songs: Griffin’s empowering ‘Standing’ followed by Watkins’ ‘guilt-free’ gospel song, ‘Take Up Your Spade.’ After Mitchell admitted she didn’t think she had a gospel song, she offered up ‘Tailor,’ a potent song with a feminist message about a woman finding her voice. ‘Isn’t this a good band?’ Griffin asked after a stunning version of her song ‘Be Careful.’ Watkins’ ‘You and Me’ was a nostalgic look back at the dusty, desert bluegrass festivals of her youth. Mitchell’s ‘Your Fonder Heart’ brought all of the women together on fantastic harmonies. And Pulkingham got a brief moment to shine on a traditional Mexican song, a Spanish duet he sang with Griffin.”

There Isn’t One Way (Patty Griffin)
Lock & Key (Sara Watkins)
Dyin Day (Anais Mitchell)
Standing (Patty Griffin)
Take Up Your Spade (Sara Watkins)
Tailor (Anais Mitchell)
Be Careful (Patty Griffin)
You and Me (Sara Watkins)
Your Fonder Heart (Anais Mitchell)
??? (old Mexican song) (Patty Griffin)
Any Old Time (Sara Watkins) (Jimmie Rodgers)
??? (Egyptian folk song) (Anais Mitchell)
Shine a Different Way (Patty Griffin)
My Friend (Sara Watkins)
Why We Build the Wall (Anais Mitchell)
Mary (Patty Griffin)
Moon River (all) (Henry Mancini)

Anais Mitchell and David Pulkingham
Anais Mitchell and David Pulkingham
Patty Griffin
Patty Griffin
Anais Mitchell and David Pulkingham
Anais Mitchell and David Pulkingham
Sara Watkins
Sara Watkins

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