Puss ’N Boots – Mercury Lounge – March 19, 2009

March 20th, 2009

pussbootsrodeoNot all cover bands are created equally. Talent, chemistry, presence and a connection to the songs they play all matter. Of course, not every cover band has Norah Jones playing lead guitar for them, like Puss ’N Boots does. Last night at the Mercury Lounge, the trio of lovely ladies—Sasha Dobson on acoustic guitar, drums and lead vocals, Jones on Telecaster and vocals and Catherine Popper on bass—delivered a tight set of rockabilly, country and cowboy tunes. The guitars twanged with enough reverb to fill empty prairies, the bass bopped the simple beat of cowboy boots on hardwood and the band’s name brought a smile to my face.

The set had a late-night living-room atmosphere, except that it was early, barely 8 P.M., when they started. So often I’ve wished a drunken crowd would shush, but Thursday, the audience was respectful when a boozy din and the crash of dropped beer bottles seemed appropriate. The girls seemed to feel it, too, and urged profanity. But as they expertly made their way through Johnny Cash, Buddy Holly and Doc Watson covers, sliding into gorgeous two- and three-part harmonies without a dash of effort, I was thankful for the silence. I loved all three together and separately, but Dobson was a revelation, with her goofy demeanor and gorgeous voice in just the right proportion.

Things swerved from the formula only once, when they invited Mikael Jorgensen (of bill-mate Pronto) to play keys on “Jesus Etc,” by his main band, Wilco. Here the playful songs of love and heartbreak made way for sheer beauty as everything tightened around Jones’ singular voice. Awesome. —A. Stein