Nashville songwriter turned performing artist Ryan Hurd sang to an emphatic audience at Knitting Factory downtown Friday evening, and up-and-coming alternative country artist Morgan Wade opened the night with her soulful voice and rough-around-the-edges aesthetic.
Wade took to the stage dressed in T-shirt and sweatpants with a band she assembled off Craig’s List in 2018. With a rich, gritty voice and Southern drawl, Wade’s music is reminiscent of 1990s country artists mixed with alt rock, but with updated arrangements and a grittier lyrical approach.
This, along with her band that looks more like a hard-working rock band than polished country group, creates an intriguing accessibility for the artist. The majority of her performance was composed of songs from her 2021 debut “Reckless.
This included “Wilder Days,” which details a failed romance with an older man from the big city. Wade also covered the 1985 hit “Your Love” by the Outfield.
Hurd got his start in Nashville writing songs for major artists including Blake Shelton, Luke Bryan, Lady A and Tim McGraw, as well as DJ Diplo. During this time, Hurd met his future wife and fellow singer-songwriter Maren Morris, who served as the inspiration for many of Hurd’s songs.
Throughout his performance with his band of young Nashville musicians, Hurd played tracks from his debut album “Pelago,” as well as his major singles, including “Love in a Bar,” which details his budding relationship with Morris, and “To a T,” which Morris provided the backing vocals for on the recording.
He also performed “Sunrise, Sunburn, Sunset,” a hit he penned for Bryan. Both acts showed an interesting new direction for country, one that returns to telling the lives of regular folks and less pandering to the vague notions of post 9/11 patriotism that have dominated the country charts for the last 20 years.
Hurd’s music focuses on relationships – both falling in love and the loneliness that comes with hookup culture – while Wade’s music discusses broken hearts and struggles with sobriety.
Given that both of these artists are relatively new to the game and performed to a Spokane crowd that seemed to be well-equipped to sing along, it seems that this new direction is gaining popularity with country fans.
With Hurd and Wade having just released their debut albums in the last few years, both seem to have a promising career ahead of them, which means they’re likely to return to Knitting Factory again.
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