Erin McKeown commences The Folkus Project with a concert

Review: The project that will be bringing a series of artists throughout the next year kicks off with an engaging and personal set from the folk singer-songwriter.

Erin McKeown is nothing if not engaging, and her show in Syracuse on Friday night was a perfect example of that. Her songs are impressively crafted personal tales, whether of failed relationships or a political issue that struck a chord.

While anyone who has listened to her albums knows just how interesting her musical arrangements can be, there was also an incredible amount of charm in the show that McKeown put on, standing on a small platform in a church with nothing but her guitar and a microphone.

McKeown's ability to reduce entire albums to a singular experience, probably back to the way the song was when she first wrote it, is endearing. Her performance at the May Memorial Unitarian Church on Friday night was peppered with personal anecdotes; stories about songs that she chose to cover, tales of why she structured an album a certain way.

With McKeown, there is always something more to learn and it is clear that as a performer, she values the connection that sharing those things with the audience can establish.

While McKeown's personality is undoubtedly one of the best parts of her show, her actual performance on Friday night was just as outstanding. Her undeniable musicianship paired with her ability to seamlessly switch styles of music demonstrates the careful consideration that goes into her writing.

Friday nights set was a journey through her discography and consequentially, a glance at the evolution of McKeown’s songwriting. She worked her way through highlights from each of her albums, spending a good amount of time offering the audience a preview into her new album, Manifestra, which will be released in January. 

McKeown spent just as much time playing favorites from her earliest album, Distillation, including the crowd pleasing, final song, “La Petit Mort."

Tracks from McKeown's album of swing covers, Sing You Sinners, were also well represented in her set, which was so carefully thought out that the engaged audience patiently awaited her return to the stage through a brief intermission that seemed to drag on in her absense.

The Folkus Project will be bringing many artists to Syracuse over the year, all of which have the promise to be great shows. Erin McKeown had a contageous radiance that proved her to be the proper way to kick off the series. The smiles of the audience members as they exit the venue revealed the fact that McKeown's January release will be highly anticipated until her fans can hear more of her striking blend of folk.

Photo by mariannes_stuff / flickr.

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