Canadian songwriter Amy Millan stopped in at the Turf Club on Saturday night while on tour to support her recently released solo record, Masters of the Burial. While Millan is mostly famous for fronting the band Stars (as well as hobnobbing with the Canadian musical elites like Feist and Broken Social Scene) she flies a bit more under the radar on her own.
In contrast with Stars’ lush pop, when solo Millan takes a blusier, more countrified tack more along the lines of Cat Power or Jessica Lea Mayfield. Not surprisingly, Millan’s smoky vocals sound just as good over twangy barroom ballads as they do over indie rock. On Saturday she was backed by a talented cast of musicians that incorporated banjo, lap steel, electric mandolin, and trombone.
In between songs (which notably included standout “Bruised Ghosts” as well as her fantastic take on Death Cab for Cutie’s “I Will Follow you into the Dark”), Millan chatted good-naturedly with the sparse crowd about the tour, her bandmates, and even Willie Nelson’s braids. At one point she even informed the crowd that she had been told not to hang from the Turf Club’s giant retro ceiling lights—a concession she was willing to make because she said she liked the club and wanted to come back.
The show’s energy never got to the point of “light fixture hanging” crazy, but during the encore Millan invited her mandolin player to take the stage to deliver some of his own blisteringly fast stringwork. Though the mandolin player’s encore ended up being even more substantial than Millan’s, it made for a terrific climax to the slow-burning evening.