Last Night: Brennen Leigh at Under the Volcano

Austin singer-songwriter Brennen Leigh broke country hard on an initially smallish, talkative crowd at Under the Volcano last night. Opening with "Paint Myself Blue" as a teaser/warmup, she immediately jumped straight into "I Only Drink On Special Occasions" and the crowd was hers. It's one of those songs you don't so much sing as belt out, and Leigh belted it out of the park.

"That's a song about substance abuse, the first of many tonight," she said.

By the third song, "Backsliding Blues," Leigh was tromping through Miranda Lambert girl-with-an-attitude territory. "Sleeping With the Devil," recently recorded by Lee Ann Womack, gave us an example of just how deep Leigh's material runs as a writer. By the time she'd finished it, we had settled in, sure that we were in for one of those nights music critics remember long after the last note fades.

"If I Ever Get Married Again," another Leigh composition, is one of those half funny/half tragic Tammy Wynette/Loretta Lynn tearjerkers that require every simple word to be in exactly the right place. Leigh's got songwriter chops aplenty, and nothing screamed it quite like what is our favorite Leigh song, "Are You Still Taking Them Pills," a cowrite with guitarist/boyfriend Noel McKay.

Leigh ended the night with a stellar cover of the old Bill Monroe bluegrass classic "I'm Workin' On a Building" which totally quieted the restless crowd at last.

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William Michael Smith