Chelsea Sue Allen is a leading light in the Philadelphia folk scene, but then again, she’s something more. The West Chester singer-songwriter crafts intensely emotional songs that transcend the coffeehouse world, much as she’s a favorite over at Burlap and Bean. On last year’s Lonely Ages, she detailed the tug-of-war between aspiration and self-doubt – “I’ve got daydreams pressing against siren walls / will I become something better if I let them out” – as well as the crash of colossal letdowns – “you’re not the one I’m bankin’ on anymore, anymore?” – and does so over a bed of pattering electronics (“Creaks and Moans,” “Bankin’ On”) and full band swiftness (“Tall Dreams”).
Live, the flourishes are brushed away – Allen goes minimal and meditative, and the songs remain every bit as powerful. For this week’s Key Studio Session, she’s joined on lead guitar by her sister Shay Aubrey Allen – their playing is resonant and reverberant, with interlocking parts joining together in a sort of conversation as Allen sings her aching stories overtop, her voice scaling from highs to lows, buoyed by a tremendous amount of control. The gorgeous “26” opens the set with the same resplendence it opens the album, while the title track has the warmth and spacious melancholy of Mazzy Star, and “Reunion” just gets down to business and slays.
In the mix for this week’s session is a performance for CoverClub of Dr. Dog’s “County Line” – a lovestruck nugget from the band’s debut LP Toothbrush – and Allen takes its rustic tones and aching lyrics and totally makes them her own.
Listen to the entire session and watch the CoverClub video below, grab a free download at our Soundcloud page, and catch allen at one of her upcoming live appearances. On Sunday, February 28th, she’ll be at Full and Happy with Bird Watcher and Spelling Reform; on Saturday, March 12th, she plays Steel City with Jacob Snider; and on Saturday, April 23rd, you can catch her at Burlap and Bean. Tickets and information on all shows can be found at the XPN Concert Calendar.
Chelsea Sue Allen, The Key Studio Sessions