The other day I was in Yerevan and met some friends at the city’s bohemian bar, Calumet (“It’s cal-oo-may!” I was told. Excuse me). The floor near the stage was covered in foot high wooden tables and multi-colored bean bag chairs flat and dusty from heavy butt traffic. I found my way onto half a bean bag, pulled my legs up to my chest to keep them out of a stranger’s lap, and listened to Sima Cunningham blast.
She fits the big-voice-in-a-little-body cliché, but that big voice is so much full of soul I almost cried while she was singing about an alien coming to earth and falling in love. I have no idea what she actually said in that song; I just felt lucky to be seeing someone commit to sound like that while I was sitting right there. Perhaps it was the wall created by people standing behind our bean bag collective that made me feel like it was just a few of us and that voice. When she wasn’t belting herself, she was backing up her multi-instrumental compadre who’s most impressive work was certainly a harmonica solo which wailed over his own electric guitar work. He made me want to study harmonica. Really.
Her voice is somewhere around Brandi Carlile and Shara Worden of My Brightest Diamond and a lot of Asthmatic Kitty projects, but her 21-year-old voice made me feel younger. Ok, I’m 25, but I’ll restate: I felt at taken back a few years, like things were more sunrise and new leaves and gentle. Whether she was wailing on her cover of “Jolene” or poppin’ around on her own “Them Apples”, I could have listened to her all night.
Unfortunately some drunk guy with a euro-fro got hold of the electric guitar, and despite efforts to interrupt his chordless noise-strumming and uncomfortable mic-wailing, he kept going and going. I got going myself, walking out onto cold, late-night Yerevan singing “Hey Jude” and remembering how just a little while ago a whole room full of us sang the song together, led by a sweet, sweet voice.
Good news for you/me/us all: she’s giving her second album, Time Is Never Your Friend, for FREE on her website. FREE. So her tender “Last Christmas”, a folksy trip through the last holiday in her childhood home, will get me good an teared-up while I mourn the loss of my youth/pine for holiday tradition back home, etc. The album itself in no way measures up to the sheer pleasure of listening to the young soul set a room on fire, but seeing as how she left Armenia the morning after her show, she’s not likely to be playing around here again any time soon.