written by Chris Familton
Kurt Wagner is the closest thing to an artist in residence at this year’s Sydney Festival with his band Lambchop also playing and Wagner doing a solo show at The Famous Spiegeltent. Tonight we were treated to KORT, the collaborative project of Wagner and Nashville country singer Cortney Tidwell who pay tribute to the songs from her family’s independent label Chart Records.
The presence of a full band behind the duo was key to making it a truly special performance. They were gracefully restrained and highly accomplished players who weren’t afraid to have fun. Guitarist William Tyler in particular was mesmerising with his fluid, pure country style that sounded fresh and lively rather than historical and dusty. The focus though was primarily on Tidwell and Wagner – two very different voices that somehow work together brilliantly. Wagner crouched over his mic stand delivering his deep, clipped, barking vocals while Tidwell projected up and out to the audience with a stunning voice that ranged from high angelic tones to a low sassy purr. She made you believe every note she sang and it was refreshingly devoid of Nashville diva attitude. Playing most of their album Invariable Heartache before running through a wider selection of covers of songs by Emitt Rhodes, Cowboy Jack Clement, Jefferson Airplane and Johnny Kidd & The Pirates via Motorhead. All the while the duo played off each other like brother and sister, teasing, sharing in-jokes and mutual musical appreciation. Songs like the sprightly Picking Wild Mountain Berries gave balance to a show that had many slower duets yet the best of those quieter moments were the true highlights, particularly the moving solo take on I Can’t Sleep With You from Tidwell.
It was a real joy to hear such exquisite takes on classic Nashville country sounds in a venue which enhances the musical experience so superbly. More shows at the City Recital Hall please!
this review was first published in The Drum Media