Critical favorite Sarah Siskind played at Swallow Hill's Tuft Theater on Friday, March 12 with Travis Book. - Reverb

Live review: Sarah Siskind and Travis Book @ Swallow Hill

Critical favorite Sarah Siskind brought her tunes to Swallow Hill on Friday, March 12.

Critical favorite Sarah Siskind brought her tunes to Swallow Hill on Friday, March 12.

Pockets of great live music exist all around Denver. Some are obvious, well-lit and generously covered by local media. Others, well, not so much. Catching one of these understated gems is often an unexpected treat you didn’t even know you wanted. So it was Friday night, when Sarah Siskind and Travis Book delivered their own brand of genre-bending stylings at Swallow Hill’s Tuft Theater.

The married duo, featuring Siskind on guitar and piano and Book on bass and guitar (his usual gig is with notable bluegrass band the Infamous Stringdusters) dedicated the majority of their two hour set to Siskind’s music and story with poignant harmonies and intimate vignettes between songs. Siskind moved seamlessly from one genre to the next — bluegrass to Appalachian to folk and even to blues and rock, perfectly happy to resist slapping her music into any one category. Giving a nod to Siskind’s eclectic mix, Book announced Siskind’s 2009 album “Say it Louder” was the Nashville Music Award’s winner for Americana Album of the year. “Now we know what kind of music Sarah plays,” he quipped.

The audience also got the skinny on the moment Alison Krauss fell in love with Siskind’s beautifully sentimental “Simple Love,” went on to record it and eventually earn a Grammy nomination for it. The song, which Siskind wrote as “a little prayer” for finding her own life’s love, leaves one wondering whether it really is a song about finding love or more a question of fate.

While so many of her songs are about love, loss and regret, she admitted that she is naturally a happy and positive person and finds her music an outlet for expressing a slightly darker, painful side. The regretful “Say it Louder” pines not over losing love as much as not trying a little harder — “Love doesn’t slip away / You let it…” and the medley “Go”/”Lone Tree” a haunting ode to the desperation of hanging on: “I don’t want to go / I want to hang around / For his love to save me.” Or the more bluesy “Reasons to Love” — “Just keep coming home / and I’ll keep giving you reasons to love me.”

Siskind’s “Dress Me Up” was a rocking homage to Bonnie Raitt, who at one of her shows had dedicated an a cappella version of “Angel of Montgomery” to Siskind (who herself was at the show at Raitt’s invitation). Apparently, the overwhelmed Siskind crumpled in a heap onto Book and had to be comforted by another fan in the audience. Yeah, who wouldn’t?

Book showed off an impressive set of lungs with some lead vocals of his own, including a brand new Stringdusters tune due out next month, and “Crazy Arms,” made famous by legendary Old Country crooner Ray Price. (Look for the Stringdusters at Swallow Hill the last weekend of March.)

Friday night’s Siskind/Book show was a treat. A lovely, delicious surprise by way of her sultry voice, provocative lyrics and the duo’s artful arrangements. No pesky category necessary.

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Jackie Lomibao is a Lakewood-based writer and regular contributor to Reverb.

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Categories: Live Reviews, REVERB