The otherwise frigid evening began with a warm round of applause from about 70 pairs of hands. Singer/songwriter Annie Dubrinsky returned the favor with a smile and a hoarse, “Good evening.” Then, as she would later sing, something like a warm front filled the room. Actually, it was the music, friendly and disarming and offering up a steady hand to guide us through the maze of relationships and intimacy within her songs.
Although she maintained throughout that her voice was not up to snuff, it was. And surprisingly, she did not have to stretch for the acoustics of the Southside Caf, which are not exactly crystal clear. The set began with “12,” an energetic and heart-filled number, that echoed through the room with ease.
The show continued with titles like “Warm Front” and “Ransom,” both of which exhibited a genuine talent for observation and self-description. This is the real gold at the center of Dubrinsky”s maze. She turns the mirror on herself in such a way that reflects and captures those quiet moments in bedrooms and doorways, “moments when glasses clink.”
For a subtle change of pace, Dubrinsky twice called upon friends with acoustic guitars to share the musical duties. A cover of “Stay With Me” by “70s Brit rockers The Faces, was a fun time. The backup boys, while not quite Wood and Lane, provided a solid blues progression and solo. Thankfully, though, the awful spirit of Roderick David Stewart was nowhere to be heard in Dubrinsky”s smoother vocal approach. And for this, the hands are still clapping.
Dubrinsky finished off the night with “Brilliant Girls” and “Quietly.” The former was a slightly funky, slightly rocking, foot-tapper with some truly unpredictable breaks and tempos. The latter was short and bittersweet and also concludes Dubrinsky”s new EP Try as I Might. While it is deceptively good, “Quietly” is not a big finish song. Alas, the show ended a little too soon.
Only playing two songs from her new EP also left a little something to be desired because the show was supposedly the release party. But Dubrinsky wisely included the song “Altadena,” which will send shivers down the spine of anyone trying to recover from losing what they never really had in the first place. It builds with a single piercing note, it grows and then pulls back it howls and then it sighs. The shiver-value is about a thousand.
Most of Dubrinsky”s songs tend to dwell on the infamous “you.” “You said ” “What do you know ” etc. Despite the prevalence, there are layers to Dubrinsky”s “you.” In fact, there is something more personal here. It”s like a trial inside her mind, where she is defense, prosecution and jury. And her verdicts possess both confidence and vulnerability. As she tells us in “Altadena,” “You are not the reason I sing.”
Annie Dubrinsky writes and performs the kind of music that seems to have vanished from Earth, or at least the radio her songs are immediate and honest. Indeed, the scene that night within the Southside Caf was eerily reminiscent of another scene with another Annie. Which is to say, there was a woman”s voice, a piano and the complexities of relationships brought to life, while through the glass behind her, the cars on Packard streamed by and random faces hurried past Woody Allen couldn”t have directed it better. The only difference being that while Diane Keaton was not a great singer, Annie Dubrinsky is.