CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- I didn't go to the Mollie O'Brien and Rich Moore concert Saturday intending to review it.
I rarely review concerts because my musical knowledge is limited and my musical ability even more so. I couldn't carry a tune if my life depended on it.
But the longer I sat listening to O'Brien sing at the Woody Hawley concert, the guiltier I felt. How could something not be written about this amazing singer who is a West Virginia native?
Really, I think the woman could sing listings from the phone book and sound incredible.
Host Ron Sowell described O'Brien as "the greatest singer no one has ever heard of " -- or something to that effect. I wasn't taking notes because I wasn't there to review the concert, just to enjoy it.
But some people must have heard of her because the Walker Theater was full. Her husband joked that the audience must have thought she was appearing with Tim. He was, of course, referring to her Grammy-award winning brother Tim O'Brien. Tim and Mollie O'Brien from Wheeling were a premier folk group in West Virginia for many years many years back.
I didn't hear a lot of what I would call folk music Saturday night. Instead of feeling like I was sitting in a Greenwich Village coffee house, I thought the music was more akin to what you would hear in New York's Café Carlyle or the Algonquin's Oak Room. Some jazz, some blues, some Broadway sounds.
O'Brien has a powerful voice that can belt out a number, but it was her nuanced, sophisticated phrasing that dazzled me. Her understated rendition of "Lonely For A While" by Jesse Winchester was poignantly beautiful.
O'Brien and Moore mostly performed songs from their new CD, "Saints and Sinners." Moore's accomplished guitar playing brought appreciative applause from the audience on several occasions.
He added humor between numbers and chimed in on the chorus with "Re" in the Roger Miller song "Reincarnation." He jokingly invited the audience to join in the chorus. That was the only song, however, in the evening that came close to a sing-along.
Early in the show Moore make a remark like, "It's not your grandfather's folk music." And later he and O'Brien sang a song (can't remember the name) that Tim and Mollie O'Brien used to sing.
"They also used to sing "Puff the Magic Dragon" and "Leaving on a Jet Plane,'" Moore said.
Well, I would have loved to have heard O'Brien sing either of those songs. Or a rousing spiritual that the audience could have come in on. But I kept thinking of what she could do with Leonard Cohen's "Suzanne."
If any singer/songwriters are reading this, please take note. Throw your audience a bone every five or six songs. Sing a classic that everyone knows and likes and can sing along with. It adds a lot of fun to an evening and keeps the audience receptive to hearing something new.
I've heard a lot of wonderful music at the Woody Hawley series in the Clay Center's Walker Theater, and O'Brien and Moore certainly continued that tradition. They were brought back for an encore on Saturday, and I'm hoping they will be called back for another series performance.Reach Rosalie Earle at ea...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5115.