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Aubrie Sellers Confidently Walks the Line at Rough Trade NYC

May 18th, 2016

Aubrie Sellers – Rough Trade NYC – May 17, 2016

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Aubrie Sellers has described what she does as “garage country,” and that’s on point. It’s not that her music sounds bashed out or particularly raw, but it’s clear from the first notes—and even in her tenderest songs—that we’re not dealing with the side of Nashville that favors slickness, polish and a packaged sound. No, in Sellers’ hands, country songs get nice and scuffed, sometimes with a honky-tonk bent, sometimes with an infusion of indie rock, sometimes with punk’s burnt edges, sometimes mindful of ’70s AM rock and sounding perhaps a few clicks over from Fleetwood Mac. She’s part of a six-piece band, but there isn’t a keyboard, or a fiddle, in sight, and a whole lot of guitars kicking up some principled racket. There’s a steel player—used to great effect during last night’s set at Rough Trade NYC—but he’s just as likely to blow harp through a tricked-out microphone made from what appears to be an old telephone receiver. Cool. 

These distinctions are important because Sellers, who’ll be described here and probably in every profile, feature and review for years as the daughter of Lee Ann Womack and Jason Sellers, knowingly put extra pressure on herself by following her parents into the biz. But she’s neither a Nashville country supplicant nor a rebel. The songs on her debut album, New City Blues, walk the line between both of these poles. Over the course of an hour’s headlining set, Sellers tried them out on us: winking blues rock in “Sit Here and Cry,” sweet yearning in “Something Special,” moody country angst in “Light of Day,” cautioned romance in “Just to Be with You.”

Sellers explained that most of her set is usually sad or sarcastic songs but then sneaked in some reservedly happy ones. She pulled in a few covers, some obvious (Buck Owens’ “My Heart Skips a Beat”) and some far less so, but well chosen, including the Beach Boys’ “In My Room,” which the band turned into a misty-morning electric-folk song while Sellers mined its sensitive beauty. Throughout, and in any of those modes, she displayed able command of a big-sound band, knowing when to keep a tight rein so her vocals could be the main focus and when to let those gnarly guitars overwhelm her singing a bit. The confidence in that balance is working for her. —Chad Berndtson | @Cberndtson