Sue Foley

Sue Foley
The Cactus Café
Austin, TX

Guitarist and singer Sue Foley entertained a full house at the Cactus Café. She was joined by Chris Marsh (bass) and Kyle Thompson (drums) for most of the night’s fifteen songs. The performance celebrated Foley’s newest album, The Ice Queen which had been released that same day.

Foley kept the audience steadily spellbound the entire evening. She noted the silent focus her music earned, joking that the quiet meant everyone was enjoying themselves. While she teased, this was the truth: Every listener in the restaurant was mesmerized by her foot-stomping, head-nodding blues. Foley had previously decided to play only her acoustic guitar throughout the night, ultimately to great success. This move lent rustic intimacy to her sound, one Foley described as “flues” (a mix of folk blues and flamenco guitar). She often dove into virtuosic guitar solos, leaning forward on her stool as her fingers flew. Each of these sustained riffs earned enthusiastic applause as Foley’s mastery of her instrument grew obvious.

Just as integral to the show was Foley’s admiration of the musicians and styles which preceded her. Midway through the show, she stopped performing songs from The Ice Queen, to instead cover music from Precious Bryant, Elizabeth Cotten, and Memphis Minnie. Foley credited each of these women as inspirations, and gave renditions of their Piedmont blues styles. In particular, Memphis Minnie gained special attention. Foley recalled marveling at the first record she’d found as a young girl. Alongside Minnie’s mysterious persona and her dynamic music, she apparently became a hero for Foley. This reverence proved fitting when a deserved standing ovation coaxed the guitarist back to the stage for a thunderous encore song. After nearly 26 years, Sue Foley may not be as mysterious as her icon, but her comparable, spell-binding skill has still been thoroughly enjoyed.

by Kevin LaTorre