Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Catie Curtis + Meg Hutchinson: Music Seen at One Longfellow Square, December 14, 2008

Published in the Portland Phoenix

A full-ish crowd sought refuge from the lingering effects of the ice storm at One Longfellow Square, finding enough warmth and electricity to urge them into doing the wave — the wave, at One Longfellow! — not once but twice for Catie Curtis and Meg Hutchinson.

Hutchinson started off with a too-short set of bright yet mellow folk, mostly off her latest album, Come Up Full (2008, Red House Records). Her guitar meshed beautifully with her gently gritty voice — both were playful and lively, and served to showcase her senses of humor (particularly in "Osa's Song," in which she confesses to being "one of those people you know who" has all sorts of silly dog-obsessed habits), dramatic tension (lamenting the meaninglessness of too much of anything in "America (Enough)"), and her abiding hope in the face of adversity.

Hutchinson began what became a night of duets by inviting Curtis to back her on her mournful-but-cheery final song, "Home," and joined Curtis for most of the main set, adding depth and richness to choruses, facilitating audience participation, and serving as a foil for a few of Curtis's song-intro stories. Curtis opened with a solo of the timely "Long Night Moon" (the title track of a 2006 album on Compass Records), and moved smoothly through a set of old and new songs, all with her blues-and-country style of folk music.

Curtis mixed the dignified soulfulness of the traditional Christmas carol "It Came Upon a Midnight Clear" with the exuberance of "Be Sixteen With Me," a song by Boston folkie Don White about parents who escape for a joyride, leaving their kids at home to worry.

Several of the songs — including the love-packed "Elizabeth" and the night-ending "Deliver Me" — were audience requests. Curtis's parents, who still live in Saco (where Curtis grew up), were in attendance, and also managed to put in a request that drove home the mostly reverent tone of the night: the hymn-like "Passing Through," a reminder that whatever the planet does to us, we must still care for it.