Singer/songwriter Bianca Merkley has landed a good gig, opening for David Johansen at the Falcon in Marlboro. But perhaps there was a moment when the reality set in: She would be offering her low-key, modern plain/folk as an hors d’oeuvre ahead of one the more extravagantly oversized personalities and big mouths that rock has ever produced in former New York Doll Johansen. It’s not hard to imagine crumbs flying everywhere and juice dribbling down Buster’s chin.
Still, Tony Falco has cultivated an audience who comes to listen and who expects surprising stylistic juxtapositions. Merkely’s 2011 CD A Part of Me may contain a share of the modern folk default – lightweight, Mraz-ish, hip-fop-inflected – but it displays real range as well, and reveals subtle strains of multiple roots traditions. Many of the CD’s highlights slant toward country (“If I Try” and the lovely “Hard to Deny”). While the songs all share a focused, wispy chamber folk aesthetic, there are moments that hint at a subdued (and secular) small-tent revivalism (“A New Day”) and at an early-Joni jazziness (“Feels like Lately”). All of which is to say that the songs of Bianca Merkley are stouter and more substantial and rooted than they might at first appear, and should hold up fine in advance of the man who sang “Hot Hot Hot” and really meant it, all three times.
David Johansen and longtime collaborator Brian Koonin appear at the Falcon on Saturday, September 29, with Bianca Merkley opening. Dinner starts at 5:30 p.m. and the music begins at 7. The Falcon is located at 1348 Route 9W in Marlboro. For more information, call (845) 236-7970 or visit http://liveatthefalcon.com.