The best thing a singer/songwriter brings to the table—the stripped-down nature of a single voice paired with an instrument, in this case the acoustic guitar—can also be its biggest hurdle. With a full band, it is much easier to work a little variety into the performance. If an artist doesn't go that route, every aspect of their work needs to be top notch simply by nature of the extra attention focused on it. It's a bold move to make, if you ask me.
Montana native Jessica Kilroy doesn't hide behind a posse of guests and bandmates. Her voice is quietly compelling, and she doesn't distract from the songs with vocal gymnastics that I suspect she is more than capable of pulling off. Her guitar playing is subtle and understated. The focus, then, becomes the songs themselves, and there isn't a dud among the nine tracks of her recently re-released debut, Before Dawn.
I've always thought to be successful, singers/songwriters need to get out of the coffee shop and travel and take risks in order to make their music interesting. Kilroy has taken that route, and it shows in the haunting melodies of her songs. It is good music for reflective days.
Jessica Kilroy plays the Montana Matters Benefit Concert at the Wilma Friday, Sept. 18, at 7 PM with Shane Clouse and other guests. $15/$10 students.