Dear Readers,

Here’s my first post since my move to the D.C. area!  Itching for a live music event, I noticed that the Luce Foundation Center, at the Smithsonian American Art Museum, hosts a free concert series known as the Luce Unplugged Community Showcase.   Shows fall on Thursdays and Fridays.  As soon as I saw the Facebook event for Odetta Hartman and Jack Inslee, featuring Hartman singing passionately while playing banjo, (and checked out the following YouTube video), I decided to hop on the Metro and go:


New York natives, Hartman and Inslee have taken to the D.C. music scene quite easily.  Inslee is a record producer and DJ involved in projects on the music scenes in D.C. and New York, and he provides the electronic sounds that color the backdrop of Hartman’s Americana and jazz-based multi-instrumental music.  A testament to her versatility, Hartman accompanied her often haunting songs with violin, electric guitar, and banjo.   The effect is one that conjures the thought of Lana Del Rey taking a detour into Appalachia via New York City.  I had to do a few double-takes during Hartman’s performance, as she even looks a bit like Del Rey with a folky edge.

A natural performer, Hartman built suspense for the audience as she entered the Luce Center’s marble hall with a violin introduction:


Some of Hartman’s songs feature supernatural subjects, such as folktales from the country of Georgia in Eastern Europe (not to be confused with the state-although one could easily think so given Hartman’s banjo-folk influences).  I felt the black and white flickering effect of the videos matched the mystical mood of the performance:



As someone who had recently relocated from Georgia and a fan of Atlanta’s “Redneck Underground” music scene, it was interesting to hear new and innovative music with an Americana touch in D.C.  Hartman’s genre of music is not clearly country, folk, or electronic, but a mixture of them all, which can be disconcerting for purists.  She did not grow up with a born-and-bred Appalachian dialect like some performers in Georgia, and her music should not be thought of as strictly country or roots but an innovation that includes those influences.  To my ears, Hartman’s voice carries a large dose of classic jazz.  It was visually evocative of fantasy tales to see Hartman, in her floor-length dress and duster jacket, within the black and white marble hall of the Luce Center, although I found the room to carry too much of an echo to properly hear all of the songs.  I would like to see Hartman and Inslee again, but in a smaller setting, more suited to their sound.

For more of Hartman’s music, visit her website.  Be sure to check out one of my favorites from her new album 222, “Limoncello.”

-Emily Morris