With a Brit and two Mercury Prize nominations under her belt, 21-year-old folk musician Laura Marling very well stands a chance at being the next Joni Mitchell or Tracy Chapman. Her music strikes a minimalistic balance of deep vocals and hand-picked acoustic guitar; her lyrics, meanwhile, are loaded with profound observations about love, anger, and the human experience. As an artist who calls upon the goddess of wisdom, Sophia, as her muse, it’d be easy to believe that Marling is not singing about her own life, but is instead channeling the sentiments of a greater sentient being.

Even in speaking, Marling doesn’t hint at the power of her vocals or the depth of her thoughts. Her eight-song-set was finished in 30 minutes—due, in part, to her lack of conversation while she was on stage. As she tuned her guitar between songs, she laughed at herself, saying, “This is where I wish I had loads of hilarious banter… but I don’t.” She thanked the crowd three or four times and didn’t say much else.

Instead, she poured her voice into lines wrought with sad beauty, such as “My children will live just to grow old,” from “Rambling Man,” and “Dear lover forgiven, my love is driven by rage,” from “Night After Night.” The latter is an obvious stand-out on her latest album, Creature I Don’t Know. The track has a Leonard Cohen feel to it, with dark guitar, deeply human lyrics (about passion, religion, and decay) and thoughtfully plucked lighter notes with bits of melody. As she wrapped up the song, singing “I stand on the mountains and call people to hear,” beneath the lights of the World Cafe Live stage, Marling glowed. Yet, her show was clearly not meant for a large venue. Marling is an artist who should play coffee houses (as she is tonight during two sets at Grindcore House) or, perhaps, the apartment parties of her closest friends. The applause seemed almost boisterous and crass after her quiet, intimate melodies. —Naomi Shavin

Set List
1. Sophia
2. Don’t Ask Me Why
3. The Muse
4. I Was Just A Card
5. Alpha Shallows
6. Night After Night
7. Rambling Man
8. I Speak