The first time I heard Andrea Harsell play was 10 years ago on a late July evening around a campfire. It was after a wedding, and the party was ramping up, but at the sound of Harsell belting out "Bobby McGee," the buzzed crowd settled down as if under a spell, pulled in by what might as well have been an onstage performance in a concert hall. Harsell has the kind of magnetism that comes from being a musician who has to play, no matter what.
In 2009 Harsell released Rock & Roll Love Child, a high-energy blues-rock collection that showcases her authoritative songwriting skills. Something for the Pain, from her latest band, Andrea Harsell and Luna Roja, comes eight years later, and it is worth the wait. I don't think there's a weak track on this record, but highlights include the boisterous BR549-flavored opener "Don't Do It" and "Hearts Were Made to Mend," which has a little bit of an Old 97's feel (Harsell opened for the 97's at the Top Hat recently).
Something for the Pain definitely contains some pain mixed in with all the swagger. Harsell's strength is that she sings like a Bon Scott or a Joan Jett or a Janis Joplin, tending to the gritty elements of rock and roll, but she doesn't just rely on stylistic sheen. Her songs have a kind of genuine live-in depth that can't be faked.
Andrea Harsell and Luna Roja play the Top Hat for an album release show Fri., Sept. 15, at 10:15 PM. $5.