Live review: The Black Lillies, The Evening Muse (8/4/2013)



The Black Lillies
The Evening Muse
Aug. 4, 2013


Country music has never been my cup of tea. As a genre - full of many talented musicians and bands which I'm still able to recognize and appreciate - I just don't find myself listening enough. Until, now, that is. I can thank the Knoxville-based band The Black Lillies for opening my ears to the emotion twisting, raucous and twang-driven ruckus and for the reminder that sometimes we need whiskey, not tea.

Having seen The Black Lillies twice before (once at Rural Hill's N.C. Brewer's & Music Fest and another time at the U.S. National Whitewater Center's Memorial Day Celebration) in a large, drunken outdoor surrounding, I anticipated the small intimate setting of The Evening Muse would impress me more. And boy, was I right.

From the get-go the group cranked out its country best with a double dose of electric-twang tinges and spirits. The band started with two tracks - "Whiskey Angel" and "The Distance" - from its debut album before moving on to "Two Hearts Down" and "The Fall," a single from 2013's splendid Runaway Freeway Blues.

What could be labeled as one of the finest and soothing duets for 2013, the latter sailed strong with frontman Cruz Contreras and songstress sidekick Trisha Gene Brady, taking turns for the smooth, love-crafted tune.

The music, often rustic and on the borders of other genre - rock, bluegrass, blues, folk - territory has the lyrical lull of what makes country well ... country. I'm talking heartbreak, death, liquor, and dose Southern charm and backwoods wrangle. It's a perfect balance between tears and toe tappin' (I wished I had my childhood clogging shoes handy).

"Yes I Know," is a prime example. The song could be applied to anyone who has lost someone they loved, but it's a little like therapy with its relaxed, calming melody amidst chaotic electric guitar outbreaks. Other highlights in the performance included "Smokestack Lady," "There's Only One," "Lonely," "Same Mistakes" and a cover of Cyndi Lauper's "Girls Just Want to Have Fun."

That last one, a tune they turned the amps off for, was a surprise and the troupe fared well with its stripped, country-fused take. They continued on with a few more somber and rambunctious Appalachian-reminiscent numbers before finally calling it a night.

Lesson learned: Never say never to the power of country. Also, don't miss The Black Lillies the next time they traipse through Charlotte or a town near you.

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