If you’re going to have a bar and music venue in Lexington, you need one that works in the rain. I’ve seen more shows during storms than not, because, well, it’s Lexington. It rains four seasons here, and life has still got to go on. Musicians must play on, and folks need to hear the music. Luckily, The Burl works in the rain. The dampness soaks into those wood walls and makes them sweat delicious vapors. Tables are brought in so folks can sit and relax and watch the rain pelt the luminescent stained glass tree behind the stage that holds two inviting guitars and two chairs. As the room fills in, Maggie Lander moves to the stage, takes a seat, tunes her guitar and gets ready to start the show.
Opening for the headliner Elizabeth Cook, and followed by hilarious storyteller Darrin Bradbury, Maggie holds the crucial task of starting the night off right, establishing the tone. It’s a tough gig, the opener. The crowd is still filing in while the opener is pouring their soul out on stage, drinks are being ordered and coats are shed. That night rain had to be wiped from glasses and dabbed from eyelashes.
Tough spot to take. Maggie, working solo this particular evening, takes it with grace and style, and her solid and confident voice quickly fills the room and making everyone want to focus, settle down and listen to her stories.
A native of Henry County, Maggie Lander had a childhood most of us only dream of; two siblings and a big farm, school work and violin lessons, catching fish and crawdads and hunting for arrowheads when the work was done. She speaks of her youth with a happiness and joy that the image suggests. Having started young with the guitar, she quickly moved on to violin, then cello, piano and mandolin. Her strong musical background has created opportunities for studio work and gigs utilizing all her instruments, including her voice. Violin is her dominant instrument, but she uses her guitar for songwriting.
Her songs are personal, mostly autobiographical in background. Songwriting for Maggie is a way of healing and release. To “create something that reaches people and in the end can be a cathartic way of healing for me… Suddenly you just feel so much better afterwards. You can only carry things for so long and you just have to get it out.”
(Image by Ben Keeling)
The emotions driving her songs are evident when she takes the stage. Maggie engages the audience and pulls them into her story. Her solid guitar playing creates a foundation of melody to walk along as she holds your hand and tells you what happened. She played her new song, “All in my head” which is very biographical, about “The point where I’m at in my life. I finished it and then a weight just lifted.”
A sad tale of loss and confusion, her new song captured the audience and broke their hearts. You can hear why the weight lifted for her when she wrote the song – it clearly “exorcised the demon” when she wrote it. Writing songs is like that for Maggie Lander. “99.9% of the time it just knocks me over the head, falls in my lap.” Songs tell her to “sit down and shut up…get a guitar, get a notebook and just do it.”
The room was full by the end of Maggie’s set, and all were pleased. The attention from the crowd was humbling, she later commented; how intense but nice it is to have full awareness from the full room. She received many accolades as she left the stage for the next act. The room, and the rain, and the dried-off crowd of pleased customers and listeners all mixed with the savory smells from the food truck to create a very pleasant evening of listening to amazing songwriting. Maggie started that night off just right.
Cara chats with Maggie…
(Performance photos by Cara Blake Coppola)