Though Melissa Ferrick cut her teeth on the coffeehouse circuit, calling her a folkie sells her short. Sure, she shares plenty of sensibilities, as well as political and stylistic similarities, with the Indigo Girls and Ani DiFranco, and works chiefly on her own, armed with only an acoustic guitar. But she was raised on rock -- there's a certain bristle to her songs and an energy to her strum.
Ferrick got her big break nearly 20 years ago, opening for Morrissey on short notice, a gig that eventually earned her a two-album shot with Atlantic. Though a gifted musician who spent her youth playing a variety of instruments and attending music schools (Berklee College, New England Conservatory), it took time for her to mature as a songwriter.
She really hit her stride with 2004's The Other Side, her seventh studio release, which balanced her confessional writing and pop hooks with a punchier sonic pulse. She continued to sharpen her craftsmanship on her subsequent two releases, 2006's In the Eyes of Strangers and 2008's more understated Goodbye Youth, finding a grace, honesty and vibrancy in her thirties, sidestepping the overwrought pretense that frequently afflicts solo strummers. Tracks such as the self-indicting "Hypocrite" ("I say I'm a romantic, so you don't think it's my fault"), and the smoldering love anthem, "Glycerine," off Goodbye Youth, gather flinty intensity from their compact, well-crafted shapes.
An Evening with Melissa Ferrick. 7 p.m. Wed., Feb. 24. Club Café, 56-58 St. 12th St. South Side. $18. 412-431-4950 or www.clubcafelive.com