Shed show: Amy, Mongrel leave audience panting

Getting to Rapunzel's Coffee & Books in Lovingston is a bit of a drive down Route 29, but whenever I go, the trip proves well worth it. This time the old packing shed where Rapunzel has made her home was looking better than ever. I'd come for an evening of book perusing, coffee drinking, couch sitting, and acoustic music, and once again I was not disappointed.

Punctually introduced by Rapunzel's ever-relaxed Bob Taylor, the first act of the night, singer/songwriter Amy Ferebee, took the stage with an air of poise and confidence. Heeding the hissing of the coffee machine in the back, Ferebee quipped, "That must be the coffee machine– most of the places I play that's the blender." The audience laughed its approval.

Sitting with her acoustic guitar carefully poised on her knee, Ferebee began with a song she wrote "on Route 29" 30 years ago, a country/blues number that began "I was born down by the sea. Eastern seaboard woman, oh, that's me."

Ferebee's voice immediately grabbed me– strong but with a hint of girlishness and occasionally well-placed vibrato, combining experience with youthful excitement and tone.

"Oh, now is the time for your loving, dear, and the time for your company" begins "Children of Darkness" by Richard Fariña (a song once performed by Joan Baez), which Ferebee transformed into a long multi-textural work showing off her guitar virtuosity.

Ferebee described herself as a musical "stylist" when explaining why she chose, for the most part, to play songs of other writers; the ones she picked seemed to have a theme of searching for something– love, or just someone to pass the time with.

Paul Curreri would be a local point of comparison with Ferebee's rollicking songs and learned guitar work– even something in her vocal inflection reminded me of his quirky delivery.

Soon enough, Mongrel (not the Mongrels– as they stressed a number of times during their performance) took the stage, providing a seamless transition by joining Ferebee on her last tune. Starting with the Gram Parsons song "Juanita," the five-person act– percussionist, mandolinist/guitarist, guitarist, bassist, and Becky Bryant on frequent lead vocals– brought up the tempo quickly. As the mandolinist goose-stepped around the stage, the other guitarist handled the lead vocals, with support from the singer on harmonies.

BB King's "The Thrill is Gone" was up next, this time featuring Bryant's strong bluesy vocals that sometimes overloaded the stage's one-mic setup with the power of her voice.

Combining a selection of songs ranging from the Rolling Stones' "Wild Horses" to Patsy Cline's classic "Crazy," the group demonstrated an impressive range that the audience– including me– appreciated with our smiles, hoots, and clapping.