Marian McLaughlin @ Strathmore Mansion, Washington DC - Apr 22, 2015.
Often when I have seen one of my favorite DC area artists several times over most of the 6 1/2 years I have been writing about them, I am at a loss of what to add. But that is never the case with Marian McLaughlin. Even if the focus is on songs I have heard before, there is always something new to discover within her unique approach to folk in the direction of classic UK and European psychedelic folk artists of the sixties and seventies. Additionally, she continues to explore new terrain with the help of Ethan Foote who plays bass and continues to work out brilliant arrangements to an ever growing series of instuments.
Tonight was the culmination of a month long residency at the Mansion of Strathmore, which celebrates its tenth year of assisting young musicians continue to grow. It made for a fantastic environment tonight as Marian had Ethan Foote, a percussionist, a guitarist and brass players, but also had the Strathmore's recent resident artists, Invoke, a classic string quartet. The combination of sounds was magical tonight and the soundman deserves credit for making it all clear with Marian's strong vocal work and delicate picking clear. The players had a great sense of the song and used their power and restraint to enhance the already stirring drama within the song.
The continuing growth of Marian McLaughin (which will be shown in a second album later this year) is such a pleasure for the many of us that have seen her at various house shows and clubs in the DC area. And a good part of that is the collaboration with Ethan Foote, which is something I probably should have written more about in the past. It reminds me of Joe Boyd and Robert Kirby working with Vashti Bunyan and Nick Drake or Mickie Most producing early Donovan classics. Collaborations such as these can take dazzling core material and allow them to soar even further into the stratosphere.
It was also a pleasure to see a different audience tonight than the usual faces in the crowd that I can always find and almost predict in advance when I see a local band. Marian has the ability to pull in young and old music lovers, including many of those that have never heard of any of the artists that she reminds me of. She has a song she played tonight called 'Even Magic Falters' that is true enough, although her particular magic is going strong and growing to heights where people cannot help but notice and engage. Marian McLaughlin has a lot of fans in the world. Many of them don't know it yet, but they will.
(1) Marian McLaughlin (unknown/website).