Sierra Ferrell Cast a Musical Spell at Knoxville’s Bijou Theater

by Clayton Edwards
(Photo credit: Alysse Gafkjen)

Sierra Ferrell released her major-label debut, Long Time Coming, in August of 2021. However, the West Virginia native isn’t new to the music world. Before signing with Rounder Records in 2019, Ferrell played on the streets of cities like New Orleans and Seattle and in train cars and truck stops in between. Today, she’s traveling the country once again. This time, though, she’s on the road with her incredible backing band for her Long Time Coming Tour. Last night, I checked out the Knoxville stop on that tour.

Knoxville’s Bijou Theater has been standing since the early 1900s. Inside, the venue’s decor gives patrons a look into the past. Gilded balconies and light fixtures offer flashes of gold against its burgundy curtains and seats. If you enter the space with the right mindset, it’s like stepping back in time. Additionally, the Bijou is reportedly one of the most haunted venues in the South. This combination of an antique ambiance and the possibility of spirits whispering in the wings created the perfect backdrop for Sierra Ferrell and her band.

Timbo Kicks Things Off

Before we get into Ferrell’s performance, let’s talk a little about the opening act. Raised in Nashville by musicians, Timbo has traditional country music and bluegrass in his DNA. You can hear that in every song he plays. However, other influences creep into his music as well. You’ll hear strains of blues, jazz, and soul alongside classic country and mountain music.

Timbo took the stage solo. However, he had no problem moving the entire room. Between his guitar work, vocal delivery, humourous stage banter, and overall presence, it is clear that this guy is a force to be reckoned with. My personal favorite from his set was a tune called “Gentle Breeze of Tennessee.” Check it out below.

Sierra Ferrell Casts Her Spell

Sierra Ferrell and her band took the stage to a deafening cheer from the nearly sold-out crowd. Even through amplification, Ferrell was soft-spoken between songs. However, there was no trace of that when the music started. If you’ve heard Long Time Coming or her pre-Rounder releases you already know that her voice is incredible. Last night, I learned that she is one of the few singers who actually sound better live.

In mythology, a siren is a creature with a voice so spellbinding that it sang men to their deaths on the ocean. In a live setting, Sierra Ferrell’s voice is what I imagine a siren would sound like if it sang on the banks of the Ohio River. The voices of greats like Bessie Smith, Loretta Lynn, and Dolly Parton come to mind when Ferrell sings. While you can hear her influences, there’s no denying that Ferrell’s sound is very much her own.

The Band

Sierra Ferrell put together one hell of a backing band for this tour. Josie Toney (fiddle), Joshua Rilko (mandolin), and Geoff Saunders (double bass) are all exemplary musicians. However, their prowess with their instruments is only half of the equation. At times, the band would sing harmonies with Ferrell and it was enough to draw cheers from the crowd and raise goosebumps on all of our arms.

I’d also like to add that this show featured more bass solos than I think I’ve ever seen in one set. Saunders beat that upright bass to death and I loved every minute of it.

Highlights from Sierra Ferrell’s Set

Sierra Ferrell and the band kicked their set off with “In Dreams” which was a crowd favorite. Not long after that, they launched into “The Bells of Every Chapel” with Rilko masterfully taking on the leads handled by Billy Strings on the album version of the song. It was a strong start.

About halfway through the set, Sierra Ferrell dismissed her band, moved to the side of the stage, and took her place behind a vintage microphone. There, she played “Rosemary,” an incredible murder ballad from her 2019 album Washington by the Sea. The song is one of my favorites from her catalog and seeing her perform it solo under a spotlight was one of the best moments of the night, for me. Luckily, Music City Maven was there and captured some footage of the last half of the show.


The Encores

For an encore, Sierra Ferrell brought Timbo back to the stage. They sang the Johnny Boyd-penned classic “I Wonder Where You Are Tonight” before bringing the whole band back out for the final number of the night, a rousing rendition of Merle Haggard’s “Tonight the Bottle Let Me Down.”

But, even a Merle cover couldn’t top the soulful duet from Sierra Ferrell and Timbo. Check it out below.

Long Story Short…

This was the kind of show that reminds me why live music is so great. People from all walks of life packed into the small theater in hopes of falling under Ferrell’s spell and everyone got what they came for.

Sierra Ferrell will be playing live until September of this year. Currently, she has shows booked across the country and in Europe. Go to her website, find the nearest show, and buy tickets. You won’t regret it.