The Burney Sisters, a folk music group, took the stage at Dingeldine Music Center to open the third installment in the Doris Kolb Women in Music Concert Series last Saturday.
Emma Burney plucked away at the acoustic guitar and sang lead vocals, while her sister Bella Burney played the bass and offered harmonic supporting vocals.
The duo performed nine songs in their set, covering Cass Eliott’s “Make Your Own Kind of Music” and Paul McCartney’s “Blue Bird.” They also performed three original tracks, which will be released this winter.
Between tracks, the Burneys talked about their song-writing process for the audience that included several Bradley music students.
“Alright, here’s another original tune. This was one I didn’t play for such a long time because I just didn’t like it,” Emma Burney said. “You know, you have those originals that you’re like, ‘It just sucks!’ … ‘I wouldn’t write that!’ But I started playing it during my rehearsals a few months ago. I’m like, ‘It’s not so bad.’ Actually, what happened was I raised the key up half a step and then I liked it.”
Since fall of 2022, the family of former Bradley chemistry Professor Emeritus Doris Kolb has hosted a concert in her memory each semester. The series supports up-and-coming female artists, who often don’t have the same opportunities as their male counterparts.
“In the current world, female artists are a lap around the track before they get started,” Jerry Kolb said.
Jerry Kolb and his friend John Taylor travel the world in search of artists to bring back to their events in the Peoria area. Most recently, the Women in Music Concert Series at Bradley.
“You’re gonna get an amazing show from Ms. Carsie Blanton tonight. If you haven’t had the pleasure, she is a mix of musical talent and perspectives that need to be given their fair due,” Jerry Kolb said. “She sings about important things with a smile and wink. But there’s not a more sincere artist out there, and you’ll enjoy the show. I promise you.”
After a short intermission, music department Associate Chair Carl Anderson thanked those in attendance and introduced Jerry Kolb.
“My mother would have loved Carsie Blanton because Carsie cares about things. Carsie uses all the crayons in the box to let you know how much she cares,” Kolb said, referencing Blanton’s proclivity towards swearing in her music. “There are certain demarcations in your life. And one of the demarcations will be before you knew Carsie Blanton, and after you know Carsie Blanton. With that, let’s have Carsie Blanton.”
Blanton was joined on stage by her Handsome Band, bass and keyboard players Joe Plowman and Patrick Firth. The trio wasted no time getting into their first song, “Party At The End Of The World,” from Blanton’s 2021 album “Love & Rage.”
Blanton and the Handsome Band showcased a mix of sounds, including a kazoo appearance during the bridge of Blanton’s original “Dealin With The Devil.”
Like many others in Blanton’s discography, the track deals with her frustrations with social injustice and corporate greed. “Dealin’ With The Devil,” put Blanton on the map. She performed the song for an audience at the Kennedy Center on Oct. 24, 2021 that included Sen. Joe Manchin III (D-WV), for whom Blanton said the song was written.
She sings in the first verse, “You can take that double-talkin’ / Filibusterin’, can’t pass legislation mouth / You can take it out this house and drive it South.”
Like The Burney Sisters, Blanton engaged with the audience about her writing process and explained some of her musical inspirations.
“I didn’t really realize how important [John Prine’s music was] to me until I heard that John Prine had passed away from COVID … He was like the first person that I had a personal connection to who died of COVID,” Blanton said. “I heard that John Prine had died and it hit me really hard. So I wrote the song, and it goes like this.”
Blanton kept the momentum going into the back half of her set, tying up the show with two of her most popular songs, “Shit List” and “Rich People.”
The former is an anti-facist track, with a rock and roll feel and her trademark Virginian twang. Blanton got the audience involved, chiming into the final verse by yelling “That ain’t the way we do it!” to such cues as “So you want a white nation?” “Mass deportation?” “Keep the white men rich,” and “Keep the women in the kitchen?”
Blanton’s last song of the set, “Be Good” drew a standing ovation from the audience. After a moment, they bulleted back onto stage and offered an encore which the crowd accepted. Blanton played “Buck Up,” the title track of her 2019 album.
After the show, Blanton reflected on her set and expressed her gratitude for the chance to perform for college students who tend to be more receptive to the messages in her music.
“It was great. I really like how down younger audiences are with anti-fascism and sort of the political lean of the set,” Blanton said. “I would say in general, younger people seem to be ready to kind of get down with a leftist anthem than an older crowd would be.”