Saturday, November 16, 2013

Meredith Sheldon at Webster Hall's Grand Ballroom

You won’t find much information anywhere on Meredith Sheldon. She is a secret. All we can say is that she was born 25 years ago in Berkeley, California, and presently is based in Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts. She started playing acoustic guitar at age six and electric guitar at age nine. While at dance school at age 18, she started to play guitar seriously. Sheldon was reportedly a member of both Family of the Year and the Ben Taylor Band, but confirmation is scant. Evan Dando of the Lemonheads discovered her solo music and had her open his band’s tour, and both Marina and the Diamonds and Johnny Marr more recently did the same. She has released an independent EP, A La Mar.

At Webster Hall’s Grand Ballroom tonight opening for Johnny Marr, Sheldon appeared on a dimly lit stage (why do opening acts get poor lighting?). She stood in tall black boots and a red shirt long enough to qualify as a dress. With no introduction, she began to sing original compositions and play electric guitar, accompanied on lead guitar by Marr’s son, Nile Marr. Perhaps having a full band would have given more identity to the genre of music she inhabits, but here Sheldon sang soft folkie pop songs with a strong alto voice, yet played muscular rhythm guitar chords loudly, like a rocker. Nile Marr filled in a few guitar leads, but often played the same chords and rhythms as she did. Although the lyrics were difficult to capture in this environment, they seemed to be a lot about “you,” the word I heard most often, and many songs were carried along by a lot of woooh-oooh-ooohs. A classically-trained singer, Sheldon’s passion projected as earnest and expressive. Despite the odd mix of sounds, or maybe because of it, Sheldon accomplished a difficult task; she caught the ears and the hearty applause of an unsuspecting audience that had come to see the headline act.

Visit Meredith Sheldon at www.meredithsheldon.com.