LIVE: Addison Agen @ Caffe Lena, Saratoga Springs, 08/18/2022
“Best Bet” read the Nippertown headline, “Addison Agen @ Caffe Lena, Saratoga Springs.” My heart jumped a little at how sudden it was to me, this voice that I had seldom thought about over the past five years showed up at a little stage not too far from me. Her music would pop up on my Spotify discovery playlist every so often, and I would listen gleefully, but mostly she remained absent from my playlists. Save for her song “Lion” at least. Addison was the runner-up on Season 13 of The Voice, originally on Team Miley with Moriah Formica. After Moriah had been eliminated, Addison had been my top contender for the win. On television, her voice was so sweet, smooth, emotional, and held the tone and timbre of a pre-9/11 country genre. So a last-minute listening session in the hyggeligt room of Caffe Lena with a voice with equally as much warmth was a no-brainer.
“Hey,” I asked, my fingers swiped out in my text messages, “what are you doing tonight?”
Thursday proved to be a perfect Thursday summer evening. It was pleasant and warm and not too hot; the Saratoga streets were bustling with track season tourists, buskers, and outdoor diners. My companion and I cozied ourselves into a little table in the middle of the dark room to watch this girl—no—woman tell the stories she’d written over the past five years, and tell of the ones from her time on reality television.
I was enthralled by Addison. Her voice was so controlled, and we in the audience listened to it wrap around us. Addison is not a powerhouse, so that wrap was less the muscular vice of a boa constrictor or the sonic strength of a weapon. Rather her voice is so seductively comfortable, like a weighted blanket or being rocked back and forth by a strong tail wake. Her voice is visceral; it contains a raw emotion and cry that cuts right through you with fierce and unyielding conviction. Even when she throws away her notes into the ether, the next one pulls you right back in like a yo-yo. Addison’s music (and actual) partner, Mike Gronsky, may play with her every night and spend every day with her, but he remains no less captivated by her than we were. You can see it in the way he looks at her when she sings; it’s in the subtle ways the corners of his mouth lifted into smiles. It’s in the way that smile grew into a lopsided triangular grin, and in the depths of the dilated pupils in his unwavering gaze. Yes, even when telling the stories of songs written for past relationships. Especially when.
It’s not just her tone. “She’s such an incredible songwriter,” my tablemate whispered to me, and if you don’t agree…well simply put, you’re deaf. Addison has such a gift for storytelling, one that modern country artists should take heed of. I’ll admit that I’m pretty prejudiced against most modern country music. I don’t want to listen to songs about your beer and whisky, your fetish for ‘murica and your dusty rusty RAM truck.
“Tennessee Rain,” was a great first look for music lovers and Voice-watchers. The original song told two stories. The song, written by fellow storytelling-country singer Patty Griffin, it was recorded for the finale of The Voice. While Addison didn’t write it herself, it was a fantastic musical diving board into the stories she would tell. While it was a concoction of Griffin’s design—a story of love falling apart—it was in the second tale where Addison’s connection to the story really shifted into place many years later. It was one of personal and professional growth; of how the term ‘Tennessee rain” now made sense in her own life. How Addison now understood what the intensity of Tennessee rain and the destruction it could bring truly was, and how that could be a metaphor for the end of a relationship.
This is what I want; I want country music to tell me the stories of other people’s lives. I want music of hopes and dreams and tragedies—not just whiskey lullabies or drunk dads. I want the “Coat of Many Colors,” the “Crazy”s and “Gentle on my Mind”s. I want more “Boulder to Birmingham,” the “City of New Orleans” tales, the longing found in songs like “Rocky Mountain High” or “Aspenglow,” stories. I want platonic romance, whimsy, and the entire spectrum of emotion in my country music. Seldom do you find them on the radio these days. That’s why musicians like The Secret Sisters or Addison are so important to the country genre. It’s these small artists that keep the true core of country and folk music alive.
“It’s amazing how a person writes a song about your story and they have no idea you exist,” Addison laughed into the mic preceding her cover of Ani DiFranco’s “Angry Anymore.”
Yes, it’s amazing, I thought to myself (I think I thought it???) wiping away tears and snot which had been triggered by an original song of hers that cut a little too deep and had bled a little further what is still a very raw and open wound in my life. Poignant never felt so fitting of an adjective in that moment.
As the show concluded, I watched with a smile as my tablemate, a sister of Team Miley—Moriah Formica herself—approached Addison. All it took was a swivel in Moriah’s direction, a pause as the recognition buffered and settled in, before the two women were swiftly caught up in a conversation and catching up.
It’s amazing, I thought to myself as I leaned against the doorframe, how a person writes a song about your story and they have no idea you exist.
A gesture in my direction from Moriah. That’s my cue, and with that, I extend my hand for a shake.
- Still Yours
- These Days
- Turpentine (Brandi Carlisle cover)
- Bright Shade of Red
- Letting You Down
- I Want to Homeschool My Kids
- Over You
- You’ve Got a Friend (Carole King & James Taylor cover)
- My Kitchen Floor
- The Sound (Noah Gundersen cover)
- A Case of You (Joni Mitchell Cover)
- Angry Anymore (Ani DiFranco cover)
- Untitled original song
- Tennessee Rain
- Rivers & Roads (Head & the Heart cover)