A hush settled into the high rafters of Webster Hall Wednesday when delicate (only in appearance, certainly not vocal power) Laura Marling took the stage and urged into "Rambling Man." The crowd stared in awe; all quiet to allow Laura's older-than-her-21-years presence take hold. Pungent waves from the upright bass penetrated from the front of the room on "Alpha Shadows." Ms. Marling's voice is honestly one of a kind: all at once, strong, breakable, rough, quick, funny, and consuming. On her more recent work, it has only aged in the finest way - a whiskeytown country swagger interjected, thanks to the banjo, viola, double bass, and a balmy cornet horn on "I Was Just a Card", especially. "The Muse", from her recent album A Creature I Don't Know followed, and I was struck by the proximity to Jenny Lewis' solo twang-ed outfit, only less obnoxious. "Hope in the Air" was hypnotic and heart-crushing, as Marling accused and berated its anonymous subject, sinisterly moving and static in a toe-tap.
"Now has come the part of the evening when I share that I'm not good at the stage chat. So every time this part of the night comes along, I like to share facts," she prefaced in her ridiculously charming British accent. A fact the crowd learned was that at times there is no significance behind song titles and lyrics; things crop up but she won't omit them because they are important. She awkwardly presented an example: her new song "Salinas", a town in California she's never traveled to. She cooed "I also have a line about my husband leaving me and Ive never been married. So, that's that."
Shortly after the gorgeous "Salinas", her band left the stage and it was just Laura, girl and guitar. Upon realizing she was alone, she mentioned how she never feels more English than while in New York. She spun an anecdote about the city's cast of characters, particularly this one homeless woman she saw who picked up a rat by the tail and threw it at a shop window. Launching into "Goodbye England" just then, she took us in like children, repeating "We will keep you" in an octave higher. She eyed the crowd, proud of her efforts.
My favorite was the lilting "Sophia", a tender finger plucked tune which at its end roars into a boisterous anthem, worthy of rockabilly queen Wanda Jackson. "We don't believe we're rock and roll enough to do encores. So if you want an encore this is the last song, and if you don't this is the second to last song". Her absolute final song "All My Rage" shook the floor. Everyone stomped their boots and Laura's voice floated as clear as empty fields, as divine as Mama ringing the dinner bell.