Folk and indie-rock musician Margaret Glaspy’s clear voice rang out Saturday night at Caffe Lena’s Bright Series. Glaspy’s appearance was after an NPR Tiny Desk appearance, and word certainly appears to have travelled about her beautiful voice. The listening room was almost full, with fans eagerly anticipating Glaspy’s newest songs.
Initially appearing nervous, Glaspy took some time to warm up a bit. She opened with “Somebody to Anybody,” her voice quiet and a bit shy. Humble as her poetry, she began singing the words she is a “little rock on a big mountain,” and her voice shook a bit as if to betray her nerves. But the 30-year-old Brooklyn musician demonstrated her seasoned stage presence as the night progressed, singing with greater clarity and breath control. By her second song, “Emotions and Math,” she sounded like Brandi Carlile, belting out lyrics that describe the raw authenticity of emotional vulnerability.
Glaspy’s “Parental Guidance” had gritty poetry with detailed word choices that were congruent with harsher chord combinations as she warned others to start to try harder in life. The harsh tone persisted over the next few songs, but she broke the energy of sorrow and sadness by chatting up the crowd. Glaspy shared she valued the listening room provided at Lena, and reminisced about similar a similar room in Boston where she briefly studied at Berklee. Charming and disarmingly similar to the girl next door, Glaspy appeared both at once confident in herself and humbly open to criticism as she asked the audience to encourage her playing new songs.
Glaspy began to hit her stride with “Stay With Me,” using volume and breath control to emphasize her playful message that love involves sharing of roles. She was smiling, practicing some vocal techniques as a soloist that made her sound more produced than possible for a one woman show with a guitar. Break up song after break up song, Glaspy sang that her lover seemed to be writing a book about heart ache, but truly the listener had to wonder: had she had a bad break up?
And then came “Angry Again,” and the energy shifted from sorrow to rage. The song was clearly a more political statement than those that would come before and after it, following more in the social revolutionary tradition of folk. After performing it, her face flushed, she would remark that she hoped it would help her get the anger off her chest, “but here I am all pissed off again” she mused. The audience laughed, and she did too; but the emotions were raw and too intense for her to hide. Her flushed face and neck betrayed her authenticity.
The rest of the set was composed of a memorable cover of Laryn Hill’s “X Factor,” and song after song about new love. Glaspy’s language in her poetry illuminates a real knowledge of how love works: the fighting, the crying, the passion, and even the amazement. Paired with her guitar playing, sometimes it becomes predictable, but never falls flat as her music’s honesty is too close to real experience to be dull.
Glaspy was a talented talker between songs, sharing a story about her childhood and sharing a room with her sister, and also a tale about seeing a Swedish heavy metal band. The crowd responded well to her stories, and offered focus and respect for the music in silence during the performances. She closed with Neil Young’s “Harvest Moon,” raising applause from the house. She had shared many new songs during the night, taking risks and baring her true self.
Glaspy’s courage was rewarded with connection. She has a voice that is clear, honest, and wise. But she has a heart, too, that was illuminated by her vulnerability. If you get the chance to sit in her presence and listen to her, truly lend Glasby your ear. She will likely steal your heart.