3/21/2013 - “I know the sun will come out eventually,” sings Gracie Curran on “Even With the Rain,” which kicks off Proof of Love, the debut CD from Curran and her High Falutin’ Band. The song’s bruised optimism reflects struggling to make the record a reality — nights with no heat, two years of work scrapped and rewritten when a new drummer joined, skin-of-the-teeth financing and other small nightmares.
The singer believes living the blues ultimately paid off.
“I think it ended up making the album better,” Curran said by telephone recently. “The trials, tribulations and suffering made me appreciate it even more. Everything’s looking up from here.”
Thus, it’s fitting that Curran and her band received the first pressing of the record in late January while preparing to take the stage in Memphis, Tenn., for the International Blues Challenge. It was a moment that glowed like the throwback microphone Curran sings into most nights. After representing the Boston Blues Society in the competition, Curran and her band gigged their way up the Mid-Atlantic. Every show became a CD release party, with the biggest one coming in front of a hometown crowd at sold-out Johnny D’s Uptown Club in Somerville.
Along with a stunningly soulful voice, Curran’s trademark is her infectious, whoop-it-up enthusiasm. When she’s not in the middle of a crowd call and response, she’s frequently pushing guitarist Tommy Carroll to higher heights with a shout of “C’mon, Tommy, do it!”
“He doesn’t play behind his head or with his teeth, but at least one time a night he’ll do something that shocks me, something that I’ve never heard,” said Curran. “So it just started with me egging him on. I want to hear it and he accomplishes it. He’s flawless and he carries the emotion and the riff.”
Curran’s influences include Billie Holiday — “I wholeheartedly believe that listening to her can slow down time” — and Sharon Jones, whose Dap Kings albums “have a vibiness that sounds like they were made 50 years ago.” She grew up on gospel and rock, singing in a church choir directed by her mother and listening to her father’s Allman Brothers records.
As a result, Proof of Love possesses equal parts throwback soul and roadhouse swagger: “Weight of Her World” echoes Tupelo Honey-era Van Morrison, while “Jack and Mary Jane” is a straight-up rocker, and the sultry “With Friends Like These” is down- low blues worthy of Janis Joplin.
When she’s not playing with her band, Curran spends a lot of time in the audience, which often leads to her being on stage. Sitting in on separate occasions with Peter Parcek and Mr. Nick & His Dirty Tricks led to Curran’s March 22 gig at Strange Brew Tavern.
“It’s an awesome crowd, I’m really looking forward to it,” she said. “We were dying to get in, especially to be included with those acts that play there all the time.”
She’s appeared with big names like Shemekia Copeland and Monster Mike Welch; Welch returned the favor by sitting in with the High Falutin’ Band, as did Lydia Warren and Sax Gordon.
“I love live music, so a lot of times I’m out to see people and they call me up,” Curran said. “We’re so lucky in New England that we can go out and see these players any night of the week, so I do. I take advantage of it. … It’s great when you can find a pocket and just move with it.”
The music community supports and inspires Curran.
“You want to give people the feeling you get when you see them. If Monster Mike Welch can play a minor 7 that makes me weak in the knees, I want to give that feeling to the audience, you know?”