Jess Hill @ The Railway Club -- 09/22/10

As I mentioned in my first Peak Performance Project Showcase post, Jess Hill's music has had an immediate effect on me. I'm pretty sure it's because I have a soft spot for alt-country women with powerful voices (see also: Neko Case, Carolyn Mark, Jenny Lewis, Kathleen Edwards, et al), but from the moment I heard her I had a new musical-crush.

Shiloh Lindsey was first up, though, and she was pretty good. An alt-country sound, but a little on the twangy  side for my taste. There also didn't really seem to be that much by way of diversity through the songs... They were still good, just not quite my taste, I guess.

Up next was Jess Hill, who started her set much the same way as the Showcase, with an a capella song which she launched into while the bar was still chatting. But her powerful voice effectively shut (most) everyone up (almost) immediately, before the band kicked in for "Orchard". She's got a great sense of songwriting and story telling, with a lot of her tunes having an edge, or even a darkness to them, and that just compliments her folk style and voice perfectly.
Mid way through, the two members took a break and she played a few songs alone, as well as a tale relating moths, and their being drawn to light, to love. It's awkward to relay, but made complete sense in context, and the way she told it. After a couple solo songs, the band came back, and she did another song that started off a capella, but then the band crashed back in for one of the more upbeat songs of the set. It was probably my favourite song of the show, and I am not quite sure the name of it (venturing a guess, I'd say "Digging A Hole"), and am eager to get a recorded version of it. She ended the set with "From Above", and even though guitarist James Lamb, who was at the Peak Showcase show, wasn't there -- he had to drop out of this show at the last minute -- it in no way detracted from the show. At least not that I could notice. (Though, it would have been cool to see him there, too)

I'm honestly not really too sure how Jess Hill will fare against the predominantly indie-pop-rock offerings of the Peak Performance Project, but from what I've seen so far, and in my humble opinion, she more than deserves to at least be in the top five.
And, hey, the two bands I was rooting for most last year ended up in the top three, so here's hoping!