Meg Hutchinson at Cafe 939
Gracing Berklee’s Cafe 939 for the first time, Meg Hutchinson expressed some fears about the potential turnout. “I wasn’t sure if my people would find me,” she said. Well find her they did, as every seat in the Red Room was filled with one of the quietest, most attentive audiences I’ve ever been a part of; for ninety minutes, the crowd hung on every word. Joining Meg on stage was Jim Henry, fresh off a tour with Mary Chapin Carpenter. Henry, who plays regularly with Tracy Grammer, added mandolin, guitar, and lap steel parts over Hutchinson’s melodies. “Playing at Berklee, I needed Jim to distract from my very simple guitar playing,” Hutchinson joked from the stage.
She played the entirety of her latest album, The Living Side, an absolutely stellar disc if you don’t have it. Hutchinson is one of the finest songwriters on the scene, and The Living Side might be the best representation of that so far. Songs like “Travel In” and “Every Day” serve as perfect examples of what Meg Hutchinson can do like no other: weave pure poetry over gorgeous, lush melodies. “Gatekeeper,” a song from the latest disc, is an ode to Kevin Briggs, a patrolman on the Golden Gate Bridge. Briggs has stopped hundreds of potential suicides by asking the two questions that make up Hutchinson’s chorus: how are you feeling?/what are your plans for tomorrow? With seemingly every song, once the final note sounded, there were audible sighs from an audience transfixed by Hutchinson’s ability to stretch the limits of song. The front row comprised of young Berklee students, jaws dropped in awe.
Many of Hutchinson’s songs deal with her battle with depression, so it’s no surprise that she’s taken on the cause of Genesis Club, a Boston area clubhouse that serves as a support system for those affected with mental illness. It’s a cause that Hutchinson both spoke of on stage as well as offered literature about at her merchandise table.
A personal highlight of the show for both myself and the audience was the encore performance of “True North”, a song chronicling the surprisingly friendly divorce of Hutchinson’s parents. Jim Henry’s addition on lap steel brought an already gorgeous song to a different stratosphere, while simultaneously bringing a tear to the audience’s collective eye. Hutchinson’s dog Osa even made an appearance during the encore, nestling herself at the far end of the stage.
For more information on Meg Hutchinson, go to www.meghutchinson.com Her latest album, The Living Side, comes highly recommended by yours truly.