Photo By Todd V. Wolfson
Elizabeth McQueen & the FirebrandsBroken Spoke, Friday, March 14
Even the folks that love country music to death would have to admit that it's a fairly confining genre. Take the shuffle, the train-beat, the two-beat, the up-tempo honky-tonker, and the slow ballad, and you've just about summed up most of country music's menu. That's where Austin's McQueen and her band come in. Far from a one-trick pony, they can slip in and out of tempos and styles as effortlessly as people change their socks. Opener "Heads Up" was an instrumental with guitarists Chris Miller and Andrew Nofziger trading licks that split the difference between Buck Owens' Buckaroos and lazy Memphis soul ô la Steve Cropper. McQueen herself can do a traditional country ballad with the best of 'em, but her voice is strong and versatile enough to take on a slinky jazz number like her "Oldest Story Ever Told," reminiscent of Dinah Washington, or "Love Minus One," a slow, belly-rubbin' ballad with McQueen putting in just the right amount of ache. Also worth a note is the Firebrands' choice of covers: a LeRoi Brothers song, Chuck Berry chestnut "30 Days," and Robbie Fulks' "You Shouldn't Have" to wrap things up. It was all served up with a great deal of fun and enthusiasm, too, with the band trading shit-eatin' grins at each other the whole time, turning to laughter when Miller hit a clinker on "Oldest Story." What Elizabeth McQueen is doing these days is a far cry from Patsy Cline, Connie Smith, and Kitty Wells and certainly miles away from the crop of Nashville angels. In a marketplace that's saturated with traditional female country singers, that difference, along with her charm, talent, and attitude, may be just what she needs to really stand out.