Rachel Ries The Rivoli, Toronto ON, June 21

Rachel Ries The Rivoli, Toronto ON, June 21
Photo: Tiana Feng
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Vermont-based Rachel Ries has been making a name for herself these past years with her adventurous folk songs. Her most recent record (the impressive Ghost of a Gardener) has garnered international attention and won Ries favourable comparisons to Maria Muldaur, Dar Williams and Laura Nyro.

Earthy images abound in her lyrics, and a decidedly hippie vibe permeates her stage show. (I mean, when she's not touring or recording, this daughter of Mennonite missionaries makes homemade jam to sell at her concerts.) Sweet and funny, she joked about her pants being too tight, asked someone to please strip naked so she wouldn't be nervous and easily won all of our attention between songs with her folksy elegance.

"I think I'm about to do something crazy," she announced midway through the set. "Are you guys okay with that?" This 'crazy thing' turned out to be a brand new song, hastily written on the drive to Toronto and one of the show's real highlights. In no small part this was because she played the new song unaccompanied by the piano and drums that backed her for the rest of the set. The band seemed tacked on, unnecessary, with the piano in particular adding nothing to her intimate material. Rachel Ries' best asset is her curious songs, her wise lyrics. But these are precisely what are obscured by these arrangements. It's hard not to cheer for her, but you'd love to see her do it all again, solo and acoustic.