Fresh from a feature position at DelFest and headed to High Sierra and the Woody Guthrie festival later this summer, the band is touring through the Northeast showcasing new material from their scheduled October release, "Hard To Please," just picked up for distribution by Thirty Tigers.
Frontman Cruz Contreras is the focus of the band, carrying the vocal leads in combination with Trisha Gene Brady, who is as pure a singer as you are likely to find. The harmonies were true and the energy unmistakable. Contreras plays a mean (amplified) acoustic guitar, but is apt to drop down to his keyboard at any moment to deliver a convincing keyboard solo.
Bowman Townsend, another mainstay of the band, serenely, but viciously, keeps percussive order. The band is working through a personnel change or two: Jonathan Keeney now plays guitar with style. Their new bassist, Sam Quinn, formerly with East Tennessee's "the everybodyfields" was riveting, keeping a multilevel bass line with drollery and humor.
The Portland show featured a sixth player, Adam Kurtz, on pedal steel guitar. As Contreras explained, "we met in a bar in Nashville a couple of months ago." The meeting paid off. The new lineup was committed to the sound and owned the room.
It's a confident band that opens the two-hour-set with one of their most recognizable songs, "Smokestack Lady." But the set built from there with some driving, solid roadhouse numbers mixed in with ballads. "Tall Trees/100 Miles of Wreckage" from their second CD was startlingly fresh.
The Black Lillies have paid their dues and are taking the next step. The next time they come to Portland, the hall ought to be much bigger.