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Live review: Antje Duvekot at Club Passim

 

Midway through her set at Club Passim last Friday, right before covering Woody Guthrie’s “Deportee,” Antje Duvekot remarked on something she’d read about the Great Depression. “Lighthearted entertainment became important to people,” said the Somerville-based singer-songwriter. “They needed it to get them through it.” A beat of silence, and then laughter rose from the crammed, brick-walled, basement folk club.

The unstated punch line of Duvekot’s self-depreciating joke had been made evident by the first half of her show, the second of four sold-out gigs promoting her just-released second studio album, The Near Demise of the High Wire Dancer (Black Wolf Records). Duvekot, who’s become one of Boston’s folk darlings over the past five years or so, writes songs soaked in forlorn wisdom, with lyrics like “the moonlight has made it plain that nobody needs me to call them home,” sung in her trademark weather-worn throatiness. They’re the opposite of lighthearted entertainment, but without the generic, maudlin cheese that plagues less skilled folkies.

The Economic Crisis 2009 crowd seemed cool with a gloomier tone, perhaps because the formerly dry Club Passim now serves wine and beer. Or perhaps because they knew what to expect.

As she sang, with her golden-brown waves tucked behind her ears, the wispy Duvekot alternately half-smiled and scrunched up her face and squinted her eyes shut. She played half of Near Demise — accompanied by guitarist/mandolin player Sean Staples (the Resophonics, Session Americana) and pianist Kate Klim, another Boston-based folk balladeer — as well as old standards like “Jerusalem” and some standout covers that included Chuck Berry’s “Brown-Eyed Handsome Man.”

The set touched on historical tragedies — from the Great Depression to Vietnam — but in introducing “Dandelion,” from her 2005 partly live album Boys, Flowers, Miles, Duvekot focused on the personal: “This is a song about a boy who did not have a crush on me. Screw him! But I did write three songs about him.”

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