Apr. 14 at Caffeine
Edwina Hayes, a singer-songwriter who divides her time and energy playing clubs in Nashville and her native England, was a comforting respite from the mid-week blahs Wednesday night at Caffeine. Incorporating old English folk songs, originals, and covers into her weekly show, Hayes put her own sweet and sassy spin on well-covered folk themes such as unrequited love, heartbreak, and trusty road-as-life's-journey metaphors.
Although she jokingly introduced her songs as "music to slit your wrists by," Hayes kept the mood as light as her floral skirt and perfectly straightened 60's hair-do. Lighting candles on stage and dimming the lights, giving the coffeehouse a living-room feel, Hayes had a charming, self-effacing presence well suited to Caffeine's small stage. Her soft, childlike speaking voice was deceiving: it gave no indication of her soulful depth once she started to sing.
Hayes warmed up with an English folk song, then dove right into her own material, some of it co-written with songwriters Carissa Lee Broadwater, Bobby Wood and Boo Hewerdine, among others. Like most of her originals, "Bend in the Road," which Hayes described as "another cheering-me-up song," addressed hardship without stooping to melodrama. "This is not the end, only a bend in the road," Hayes sang in a honeyed voice that gave off the comfort of hot tea on a cold rainy day. She followed it with "Ain't It Sweet," a nod to her acknowledged idol Ray Charles, and a semi-comic plea addressed to her hero Bob Dylan in which she offered to "Open the Show for You."
Though the audience was attentive, it was a shame there was never more than a handful of listeners. Despite frequent interruptions, Hayes remained coolly professional, greeting mid-song everyone who stepped in to grab a coffee concoction. Oddly, while she engaged the audience with her amusing intros and between-song conversation, she avoided eye contact while performing. While singing, she preferred to look up at the ceiling or down at her guitar. Even so, she gave off a warmth as performer and songwriter that brightened a chilly spring day.