I knew it was going to be a good night Tuesday when I walked into the Sunset Tavern in Ballard. I had never been there before, but I was immediately in love with the venue. It’s very intimate, and I knew it would be a great place to see a show. Headlining was Southeast Engine, a band I have been following for about a year and a half. I’ve been listening to their new album, Canary, (Misra Records) incessantly since I received a copy a few weeks ago. Supporting were two local singer/songwriters, Lindsay Fuller and Shannon Stephens.
First up was Lindsay Fuller. Originally from Alabama, she plays darkly literate folk that easily kept the crowd enthralled. Although she was playing solo, it was easy to forget that there wasn’t a full band behind her. When Fuller was performing, it became impossible to notice anything but her songs.
She played new ones along with older material from her fantastic 2010 album, The Last Light I See, and told jokes between each. The subject matter of her material can be weighty, but she came off as friendly and easily approachable. Fuller is a woman who knows how to command an audience and how to tell a story. She introduced her final song by saying “this is a song about dying” and then she was gone. It was a beautiful set, and I eagerly look forward to seeing her again.
Backed by a full band, Shannon Stephens was up next. Quite adept at switching between various styles of folk and blues, her songs came off as light as air. Stephens has a voice that is sweet and emotive, and her band was quite successful at bringing her songs to life. She is currently working on her third album, the followup to 2009’s The Breadwinner.
Stephens left, and Southeast Engine took the stage. Their new album is a bit of a departure from their earlier work. In comparison to the folk-rock of their previous releases, it’s purely traditional Appalachian-style folk music.
I thought it would be interesting to see how Canary came off live, and I wasn’t disappointed. By the third song, it was like witnessing a four man revival, and it’s hard to imagine anyone in the crowd not being immediately converted.
Singer/guitarist Adam Remnat is a captivating frontman, and pianist Billy Matheny occasionally channeled Jerry Lee Lewis.
The band played with a fire and a passion that was louder than anything I’ve seen in a while. The newer songs easily fit in with the older, and sounded fantastic. It was a bit of a treat when Shannon Stephens joined the band for a duet of “Adaline and the Appalachian Mountains”.
I really love Southeast Engine. So much so that I put on Canary when I got home from the show. It’s exciting that they managed to sound as good live as they do on record, but I shouldn’t have been surprised. SEE is a band for the ages. Don’t let them escape your notice.