Concert review: Women in Music Series at Isis Music Hall
Following a successful debut in 2018, the Women in Music Series made a triumphant return on Sunday, Jan. 6, at Isis Music Hall. With a carefully curated setlist of tunes by Dolly Parton, Stevie Nicks, and Kate Wolf, five Asheville singer-songwriters and one former local paid homage to these greats. And while the reverence each artist has for these icons was the evening’s overarching theme, the mutual admiration for one another was also clear.
On upright bass and vocals, tribute mastermind Aubrey Eisenman teamed with her bandmates from The Clydes — John Duncan (fiddle), James Kylen (drums), and her husband Justin (guitar/vocals) — to form a reliable backing ensemble, occasionally yielding the stage to solo and duo spotlights.
First to join them was Hannah Kaminer, who established the blueprint for the triune program by sharing biographical notes on Wolf, the show’s least famous honoree but a name that received a smattering of passionate applause when Kaminer polled the crowd regarding their familiarity with Wolf’s work.
Their full band take on “Here in California” and an intimate working of “Green Eyes” by Kaminer and Duncan made one want to take a deep dive into Wolf’s catalog. Furthering that desire was former Ashevillian — and current Lexington, Kentucky resident — Anna Kline’s handling of “Across the Great Divide,” the first of the night’s many instances of talent rotating in with ease, swapping out guitar straps and doing the occasional retuning.
Jane Kramer, who hadn’t met Eisenman before being asked to participate, ushered in the Parton portion of the tribute with a warm version of “Coat of Many Colors,” then navigated the complexities that come with interpreting “Jolene.” As with Tellico’s Anya Hinkle covering “Landslide” later on, the song’s familiarity draws in listeners, but also brings with it elevated expectations and a high degree of difficulty — a challenge for which each performer was well prepared.
Hinkle’s full-band take on “I Feel the Blues Movin’ In” gave way to a sudden intermission that paused the compelling energy on stage, only to be resumed as if it had never stopped by the addition of Amanda Anne Platt. The Honeycutters’ frontwoman handled “You’re the Only One” with ease, then prefaced “9 to 5” by saying it holds a special place in her heart since her now husband proposed to her after they saw the musical by the same name, but earned big laughs by noting that the composition isn’t romantic.
Kline returned with her Grits & Soul partner John Looney (guitar/vocals) for a powerful rendition of “Old Flames,” after which Hinkle educated the crowd on Nicks’ accomplishments. Her terrific “Landslide” set the stage for a full-band undertaking of “Gold Dust Woman” — a neat comparison point right at a month after Warren Haynes, Grace Potter, and Jim James combined forces and performed it on the Christmas Jam side stage.
Harmony-rich workings of “Never Going Back Again” and “The Chain” nicely closed out the Nicks section, and as the show wound down to what Eisenman called their “wild card” closer — Jeannie C. Riley’s “Harper Valley PTA” — the host’s spoken intentions of returning next year were met with enthusiastic applause. After the joy of witnessing the gifted vocalists swap verses on the energetic closing tune, the event’s third edition can’t come soon enough.
(Clockwise from top left: Jane Kramer, Anna Kline, Amanda Anne Platt, Hannah Kaminer, Aubrey Eisenman, and Anya Hinkle. Photos courtesy of the artists.)