Three for three: Local women in the round

Jan Smith, Joia Wood, and Terri Allard
at Gravity Lounge
January 24

If you were looking for the ladies last Saturday night, probably the easiest way to see them (apart from that secret topless bar at the corner of [censored]) was to attend the in-the-round showcase of Jan Smith, Terri Allard, and Joia Wood at Gravity Lounge.

Though I was not on the prowl for the fairer sex that evening, I was looking for a good time (of the musical variety), and for the merest pittance of an entrance fee, I was allowed into the modern splendor that is the Lounge's main performance area.

Though I was about 45 minutes early, the venue was already crowded. But with a bit of luck I was able to find a seat. Whereas most shows I've been going to recently have made the cragged nature of the aging process (on me) plain, I felt like quite the young buck this evening, secretly wondering if some sugar mama would come take me away from all this... but that's another story.

Shortly before 9pm, the three ladies took the stage, each carrying an acoustic guitar, and as Jan Smith had organized the evening, she broke out first in a smooth rendition of her song "Gorham Mountain." Allard, seated to Smith's right, mouthed the lyrics to the song occasionally, seemingly providing near-subconscious harmonies.

As the evening was planned as a round, each songwriter performed one of her tunes before handing over the stage to the next performer. That would be Joia Wood– probably best known for her harmony work on singer/songwriter Danny Schmidt's three albums.

From the time Wood opened her mouth, it was apparent that her voice is something utterly apart from her small, slight frame. Strong and subtle, Wood sang an original tune called "Sweet Grass," about a New Mexico road trip, which was a striking change from Smith's clever and concise country-pop. Wood has a style that I tried hard to place, though my best analogy– that her songs seem to be a combination of Jeff Buckley and Ben Harper– does not quite hit on what I heard.

Terri Allard came next, and she definitely has a vibe of traditionality to her songs– partly it was her sometimes '60s-style vibrato vocals, and partly it was the songs themselves, which were noticeably more folk than either of the other two performers'. For a slow song about lost love (fancy that) Allard had her guitar capo-ed far up the neck, leaving her instrument sounding a little like a harpsichord in some medieval ballad.

Back to Smith for her great tune, "Your Mama Don't Care" from Tin Heart, which featured Allard on background harmonies on the chorus, then to Wood for minor chords and lines like "a pretty little prophetess" (though this was her most adult-contemporary tune of the set), then to Allard for a pop story-song the performer wrote "with her neighbor, Mary Chapin Carpenter."

The atmosphere was relaxed, the performers were spot-on, and everyone seemed to be having a great time. Next time you see Allard, ask about that bawdy joke she told while Smith set up.

Joia Wood, Jan Smith, and Terri Allard