Review and photographs by Tim Mack
There is no justice.
If you’re the sort of music fan who reads Nippertown, you know this already. Talent, charisma and hard work don’t guarantee success, and plenty of artists lacking in those departments make the big-time through blind luck and clever management (and possibly questionable consumer taste).
Which brings us to Red Molly.
If you caught the Americana/bluegrass trio in their return to the Troy Savings Bank Music Hall last Friday night, you probably felt lucky to see such an outsized talent in a comparatively modest venue. Bassist Laurie MacAllister noted it was likely the biggest indoor audience the band had ever played for. And somehow that didn’t seem right. Not that anyone was complaining, because the Hall’s famous acoustics seemed perfectly suited to these three pure voices.
MacAllister, Abbie Gardner (dobro) and Molly Venter (guitar) play music with a good ol’ country feel and a bigger sound than you’d expect from an easy-going trio. (Concert note: It’s always a good sign when the ushers are raving about the sound check while they lead you to your seat.) The first set saw a sampling of material off their 2011 studio release, Light in the Sky, as well as songs from their various solo records and the soon-to-be-released The Red Album, arriving officially next week (though copies arrived in Troy just in time for the show). Every song was a crowd-pleaser, but two covers were stand-outs: Simon and Garfunkel’s “Homeward Bound” and “1952 Vincent Black Lightning,” Richard Thompson’s classic motorcycle ballad starring a tragic heroine named… Red Molly.
Opening the second set with another cover – the Peggy Lee hit “Fever” – allowed the three to show off a more soulful side. It also made you ask: Shouldn’t it be harder to sing harmonies that clear, tight and strong? But they made it look and sound effortless all night. No Auto-Tune needed here.
The touring sisterhood was very much at ease between songs as well, with light self-effacing comedy pitch-perfect for a receptive audience. They could do no wrong and did no wrong. And knowing they had the audience captivated, Red Molly had the confidence to close the night with an a cappella, tear-jerking version of Susan Werner’s “May I Suggest.”
So if there’s justice in the music business, the next time Red Molly comes to town they’ll be playing at a sold-out Times Union Center or maybe to a Phish-sized crowd at SPAC. But if they aren’t, that’s all right with them. MacAllister said people often ask about how the band defines success for themselves. Her answer in Troy was essentially this: “If we played for a crowd like this every night, we’d be very happy.” The same could be said for the people in the seats.
Greg Haymes’ review at The Times Union
RED MOLLY SET LIST
I’m Comin’ Home
Come On in My Kitchen (Robert Johnson)
Do I Ever Cross Your Mind? (Dolly Parton)
With a Memory Like Mine
Sing to Me
Homeward Bound (Simon & Garfunkel)
1952 Vincent Black Lightning (Richard Thompson)
My Baby Loves Me
Can’t Let Go (Lucinda Williams)
Walk Beside Me (Tim O’Brien)
Caledonia (Dougie MacLean)
Dear Someone (Gillian Welch)
When It’s All Wrong
It’s Goodbye and So Long to You
May I Suggest (Susan Werner)