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No surprise about Maddie & Tae

Paradise Rock Club, Boston, October 8, 2015

Reviewed by Jeffrey B. Remz

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Maddie Marlow, one-half of the duo Maddie & Tae, seemed rather amazed to be in her predicament. With a few worthy hits under their belts ("Girl in a Country Song" and "Fly") and but one album, Maddie & Tae are just at the outset of their first ever solo headlining tour. In fact, this was the second night, having started in New York.

Marlow, who assumed most of the lead singing, indicated surprise that the crowd (far from sold out at about 570 tickets sold out of a capacity of 930) seemed to know all the words to their songs. In fact, she was just amazed that they showed up period.

While some might question how that could be given Maddie & Tae's early track record, Marlow should not have been because Maddie & Tae are an act of much quality, playing country music (with some harder flourishes) during a time when the mainstream has not all that much in common with what they are doing.

Maddie & Tae's sound is built on the harmonies forged by Marlow and her partner, Tae Dye. The two wrote all the songs on their debut and sounded just gorgeous together from the start with "Right Here Right Now" to "Waiting on a Plane" to the sad first encore song "After the Storm Blows Away" written in response to the sudden, tragic death of the father of a close friend. Maddie & Tae broke the latter song down, playing it acoustic with two of their four band mates and sounding all the better for it.

While the emphasis certainly was on their vocals, which always sounded on target, what didn't was the predominant thwack of the drumming of Kyle Wilkerson. It wasn't until about halfway through the show that the sound mix was under control. The show was punctuated by a chunk of fiddle from Luke Moller, which somehow doesn't seem to show up all that often in country today. Maddie & Tae deserve credit for including that along with mandolin.

They exhibited a playful side with the cute sounding "Shut Up and Fish," which sounds like something Brad Paisley would come up with (okay, he obviously did have his own fishing hit). "Sierra" was about a pretty, high school bully, who made Marlow feel bad about herself. It's also playful song where the bullied wants "Sierra" to get what's coming to her. Marlow did make a plea, though, to the overwhelmingly female (and also skewing on the young side) fans to not let anyone define them.

With only one album under their belts, it was reasonable that Maddie & Tae would opt for covers to fill out what would be a 70-minute show. For the most part, they chose very wisely, starting with Dolly Parton's "9 to 5." Given their "Girl in a Country Song," it seemed to make a sense, although their version did not outshine Parton.

However, they scored quite nicely with Stevie Nick's "Landslide" (Marlow said after the show that tit was her favorite cover) and the closing song of the night "Cowboy Take Me Away" from the Dixie Chicks. In a way , it underscored that perhaps Maddie & Tae are a sort of an offspring, country, stretching the bounds slightly, but out of step with most of the "country" artists out there.

About the only misstep in song selection was a cover of Rihanna's "Umbrella." The music was so different from the rest of Maddie & Tae's show and offered nothing imaginative that would raise eyebrows. The song's inclusion felt more like trying to placate a non-country demo than anything else.

But given that this was the start of a new adventure for Maddie & Tae, it's hard to be too harsh. They are a breath of much needed fresh air in country. There's no surprise about that.