If one were to mix Tammy Wynette’s expressive vocalization with Dolly Parton’s gritty cadence, the resulting sound might sound something like that of singer-songwriter Sierra Ferrell. As part of his “Long Time Coming Tour,” Ferrell gave a stunning performance on Saturday, April 15 at The Sinclair to a crowd of perhaps the highest concentration of plaids, beards, cowboy hats and overalls in history. recent from Cambridge. She was joined by Josie Toney (violin), Joshua Rilko (mandolin) and Geoff Saunders (bass) for an evening of genre music and spirited performances.
Ferrell and his entourage began with a spirited rendition of one of his most popular songs, 2021’s “In Dreams,” incorporating violin into a song often played slower and with only guitar. Although opening with one of his most beloved songs might have seemed like a risky move initially, the gig only got better from there as Ferrell was able to capture the attention and energy from the crowd with songs from his repertoire – some not yet released.
After upbeat renditions of “Give It Time” and “The Bells in Every Chapel” from his “Long Time Coming” album, Ferrell slowed down with “Whispering Waltz.” She was instrumentally accompanied by Toney and, bathed in dark blue stage lights, the two artists created a startling harmony between Ferrell’s vocalization and Toney’s moaning violin that at times seemed to reflect the same rich complexities of the human voice. “We raised it, so now we have to lower it,” Ferrell said.
Ferrell’s Parton-esque voice is as unique as his category-defying music, drawing inspiration from honky-tonk country, folk, jazz, and even Latin music genres like tango. From nostalgic waltzes to jazz-infused country, Ferrell has demonstrated an ability to move gracefully across genres. In the slower songs, listeners found beauty in her rich vocals and layered harmonies with other band members; in the faster songs, the appeal was in the quickness of the performers’ finger work, the instrumental solos scattered throughout, and the passion that radiated from the stage.
While Ferrell embodied a commanding vocal presence, Toney, Rilko and Saunders delivered impressive instrumental solos throughout the night. Perhaps one of the most compelling moments of the gig came when the band played “The Snakes Crawl at Night,” a classic country tune written by Charlie Pride, but not notably on any of Ferrell’s albums. Despite the song’s Southern origins, the band infused it with elements of jazz and Latin melodies to create a lively musical melting pot. The quartet gave one of their liveliest performances of the night, with moving solos from each artist – both instrumental and vocal – and the invocation of hissing serpents throughout. The crowd responded with fervor and reflected the energy of the group, dancing, singing and whistling.
Shortly after, the group leaves Ferrell on stage to perform a few solos accompanied by his guitar. She started with “The Garden” and later “Before I Met You” (another song from “Pride”) before the other three band members returned. Ferrell’s solos provided a breath of fresh air and a chance for listeners to hear the strength, complexity and richness of his voice unaccompanied by backup vocals or instruments. In those moments, it was clear that while the band as a whole was incredibly talented, its strength came from Ferrell’s voice. It seems that sentiment is shared by others in his fan base; while a studio-recorded version of “In Dreams” featuring Ferrell and a band has been played just over two million times on Spotify, a video of Ferrell singing the same song accompanied only by two acoustic guitars has been viewed by six million times on Youtube.
As the night ended, Ferrell seemed thrilled by the energy of the crowd, saying, “Can we just message my manager and my booker and say, ‘Listen…Sierra is going to be staying in Boston for another week. “The crowd wasn’t quite ready to part ways with the singer yet, either. After Ferrell attempted to close the gig with a final rendition of “Jeremiah”, chants of “one more song” rang out in The Sinclair.
As heavy rain fell outside on a dreary Cambridge night, inside the confines of 52 Church Street, listeners were honored by a talented band, an eclectic amalgamation of genres and the voice of a prolific artist.