On her New York stop of the promotional tour for her new release The Way Home, soul-folk singer-songwriter Mary McBride hit the stage of lower Manhattan's Housing Works backed by a solid power trio that at once made you forget that the horns featured on the disc were not present. She opened with a soul-tinged tune that set the tone for the concert, which featured music from the new disc alongside material from previous releases and a handful of covers
McBride explained that her current tour reflected the message of the disc, and that she selected non-profit venues like retirement homes, AIDS charities and even prisons to showcase her music (the tour kicked off in the infamous Angola prison in Louisiana). She also said that in some places she took requests, and played a stirring, Stax-inspired version of the popular classic "Swing Low Sweet Chariot," a tune that was among the numbers requested at that first tour stop.
Among the more memorable moments were a country-rock tune written after 9/11, in which she described life in New York City, where she currently resides, and a jazz-inflected take on a Tom Waits number. Also interesting was a Gospel/blues tune in which she sang of how hard it was to choose "between the bottle and the Bible."
She selected a few covers, including a touching version of Hank Williams' "I'm So Lonesome I Could Die" and an amped-up take on Ray Charles' "I Don't Need No Doctor." She also presented her album's title track, a folk-rock tune whose lyrics speak of the desire to be home. The show closed with a rock version of "Amazing Grace" whose arrangement seemed inspired by the Rolling Stones' "Honky Tonk Women."
Mary McBride might just be the future of blue-eyed soul. Her delivery is both raw and honest, and she is also a gifted songwriter. Her music deserves to be discovered by wider audiences, and it's a matter of time until she starts performing in larger, more mainstream venues.
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