EP Review: Blushface – EP

Blushface

photo courtesy of Blushface

EP Review of Blushface: EP

Formed in Kraków, Poland in 2016, Blushface is comprised of Mateusz Bober, Michał Popiel and Maciek Iwański. The music created by this trio is exceptionally catchy rock and roll, making it a joy to get a chance to listen to this EP over and over while reviewing it. The music is impossible to pigeonhole further, though, because it crosses so many subgenre lines.

“Astral” kicks things off with a brooding, slightly grungy rock vocal, consistent beat, and straight-up rock attitude. A little 3 Doors Down-ish, on the slow side of mid-tempo, vocals a bit more rough-edged and with a clear, very cool accent. And the guitar solo in the latter half of the song is a great mid-tempo blues-based guitar rock segment. Even from the first few seconds, it’s apparent Blushface’s EP is going to be one of the better new albums you’ll discover this month. And it’s actually someone else the vocals remind me of – not exactly 3 Doors Down… or The Fray… or The Calling; I’m sure someone will think of the singer and mention him in the comments, even if the name continues to escape me, but I hear the voice in my mind. Still, that’s a pretty good list of bands whose fans might dig this tune, though you should expect something on the cusp of slow grunge.

Blushface - EP

image courtesy of Blushface

“Just Boy and Girl” is up next, and it opens with a cool, catchy rock guitar line before being joined by vocals, adding a dose of ’80s/’90s hard rock insistence to a song that’s a little jangly at times for typical hard rock but sports a crunchy riff that’ll satisfy rock fans while then dancing off into tuneful interludes for sections of the track. Indeed, like much of the album, this song almost feels like Scorpions-lite. In other words, it feels like the softest album you’d find among a collection of hard rock fans’ favorites. And it sounds as if a live performance will carry a bit more weight, too. Like a mid-tempo rock band the quality of whose vocal and axe chops give it serious street cred.

“Fairy Tales” mellows things out a bit, with strumming guitar offsetting the occasional dancing electric riff, the song eventually revealing itself as a lift-your-lighter arena rock ballad, replete with the crunching blues-rock-based guitar solo.

“YOLF” feels a lot like an ’80s guitar rock song. One of the more sparsely-produced ones, but unmistakably hooky ’80s guitar rock. Its totally cool vibe is supported by a driving beat and tunefully insistent vocals.

“Ask Me Twice” closes the disc with a catchy, hooky, lightly instrumented rocker. This one seems like a sing-along tune, supported by a playful guitar line that sometimes seems it would smirk if it could. It carries a lighter feel than the rest of the songs and sets the collection down softly with a smile.

Beginning-to-end, this is a fun five-song collection that could appeal to a broad range of rock fans. As noted, the guitar chops and occasional vocal power should be sufficient to earn a nod from hard rockers, while the hooks and tempo should appeal to pop and pop-rock fans. Indeed, this is a fun EP, and I urge you to give it a listen. Almost from the first spin, it became one of my favorite new discoveries this year; I’m glad the band reached out to me and introduced themselves and their music.

Album Review: Billy Crockett – Rabbit Hole

Billy Crockett

photo by Rodney Bursiel; photo courtesy of Shock Ink

Album Review of Billy Crockett: Rabbit Hole

Billy Crockett opened the Kerrville Folk Festival’s main stage this year. He is widely revered within folk music circles. And, as I first discovered at a house concert in April and found confirmed by repeated listens to his newest album Rabbit Hole, he has as good a shot as anyone (and better than most) at making that leap into the broader public consciousness.

Billy Crockett - Rabbit Hole

image courtesy of Shock Ink

Billy’s voice is an original. It’s his calling card. It’s the perfect voice for a storyteller. While he often channels emotion via an exceptionally emotive vocalization a la Randy Newman, he does it with a voice that can be as smooth and able to hit big notes as Bob Halligan or Joshua Kadison. It’s a style that works well for him. I can picture Billy’s songs providing the narrative to a play or film, with Billy himself serving as the singing narrator. In fact, if there’s ever a remake of Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, I’d nominate Billy Crockett for Burl Ives’ narrating snowman role.

With that in mind, Rabbit Hole is an engaging collection of folk paintings, with Billy’s voice serving as the paintbrush, or folk stories, as told by a master storyteller. And, though I hadn’t intended to mention each and every song when I initially planned this review, I found it impossible to leave even one out once I started composing the review, so here you go…

Billy Crockett

photo by Rodney Bursiel; photo courtesy of Shock Ink

The title track kicks things off in a carnival barker-ish style that’s an instant attention-grabber. Indeed, Billy’s narrating the story as an Alice in Wonderland-ish Mat Hatter exploring things rabbit hole-related. It’s a unique song, an interesting journey, a great way to kick things off.

“Record Player” follows, with guitar-slapping syncopation, an emotional voice, a cheery rhythm, and a healthy dose of nostalgia. As a standalone track, I think this one is my personal favorite.

Forboding vocals, as hinted at on “Rabbit Hole,” return full on “On Your Way,” as if Billy’s lead and the backing Gospel-blues wails are warning of a gathering storm. It’s followed by the thoughtful “Drought,” with Billy’s wistful vocals painting a picture of drought, aided by carefully picked strings portraying raindrops.

As Billy moves around the big tent of folk styles and incorporates other influences, “Take Me” sports a bit of a Jimmy Buffett vibe, cheerful, playful, and relaxed. And, in an act of wise song placement, it’s followed by a soft song in the same vein, relaxed and happy, the mellow, comfortable “Almost Perfect,” replete with reminiscences and of the fortunate results of opportunities foregone.

Billy Crockett

photo by Rodney Bursiel; photo courtesy of Shock Ink

“Spare Me” utilizes an accelerating and decelerating vocal tempo and sorrowful tone, along with sparse guitar strumming, to draw the listener closer and bring tears to the listener’s eyes. If you can withdraw yourself from the song’s emotion enough to examine it, the song structure is as interesting as its content.

Fortunately, Billy doesn’t leave the mood low for long, as “That’s Something” is the next song up. Impossible to stay down in the face of this song’s building wave of cheerfulness, as powered by its upbeat music, it’s an ode to small pleasures and the subtle things at which to marvel in everyday life, if someone’s eyes are open to them. Remaining upbeat, he follows that with “Mavis,” an uptempo, groovy ode to Mavis Staples (and to civil rights).

Next up is an homage to family he barely or never knew, those family members before his time, who he never met or merely crossed paths with as a young child. “Ghosts” is a softly-strummed, detailed, comfortable spoken-sung story-song that will bring a lump to your throat, even though the song is about complete strangers – well, not to Billy. And if you don’t get completely choked-up when his father arrives at his dinner of ghosts, you’re not human. Such a powerful song.

Billy Crockett

photo by Rodney Bursiel; photo courtesy of Shock Ink

The mood comes right back up with “Big Old World,” the album’s final track. Utilizing the one-phrase-flows-into-the-next vocal style, it’s a happy ditty encouraging exploration of the world outside, living life beyond your four walls. Indeed, after the roller coaster of emotions in Rabbit Hole, it’s a great one on which to end. Enjoy life because every day’s a gift. As is this album. Thanks, Billy.

Beginning to end, Rabbit Hole is a masterwork from a masterful singer and songwriter in the folk genre. So I’ll repeat that thanks to Billy for sharing it with the rest of us. Now it’s up to you, reader, to take a listen.

Looking Ahead

Well, if you can get out to see Billy Crockett perform live, you should. I saw him perform a couple months ago, as I reviewed in the Blog. He opened up the Kerrville Folk Festival as the first opening night performer on the main stage last month. At the time, I inquired of an old music industry friend in attendance if she’d be at his performance, and she replied “Of course. I wouldn’t miss Billy.” So don’t miss Billy.

At the moment, according to the “Shows” page on Billy’s website, he lists only six upcoming shows, the first more than a couple months away: Saturday, September 30 at Rolando Diaz Fine Art in Santa Fe, NM; Saturday, November 11th at Blue Sage Hall in Kerrville, TX; Sunday, November 12th at Kessler Theater in Dallas, TX; Saturday, November 18th at the Cactus Cafe in Austin, TX; Sunday, November, 19th at the Dosey Doe Big Barn in The Woodlands, TX; and Friday, March 9, 2018 (next spring!) at The Calgary Folk Club in Calgary, Alberta, sharing the bill with Perla Batalla. Check back to Billy’s website for more updates; he added three of those six shows between my first draft of this review and its publication date.

Live Review: Coco ‘n’ the Fellas at the Bee Bop Café

Coco 'n' the Fellas at the Bee Bop Cafe

photo by Geoff Wilbur

Coco ‘n’ the Fellas

Bee Bop Café, Plovdiv, Bulgaria

June 29, 2017

I had been hoping to get to this club during my stay in Plovdiv this year. Several of my favorite jazz (or jazz-influenced) artists have performed here, so I knew to expect talent on the schedule. Obviously, I still checked out Coco ‘n’ the Fellas’ music before deciding to head out to the club, and I was duly impressed. Not just with the band, but with the club, as well. It has a comfortable vibe of its own, and I hope to return whenever I’m in town and find good music on the club’s calendar. Indeed, Plovdiv has a top-shelf jazz venue rivaling those of any major city.

Coco 'n' the Fellas at the Bee Bop Cafe

photo by Geoff Wilbur

London-based Coco ‘n the Fellas consist of Ami Oprenova and “the Fellas”: electric guitarist Daniele Ciuffrida, acoustic guitarist Joe Perkins, and upright bassist Havard Tanner. The group’s sound is gypsy swing-influenced. As you may know, while I appreciate and enjoy good jazz music, and I think music fans spanning most genre preferences would recognize Coco ‘n’ the Fellas as an exceptionally talented ensemble, it’s not my area of greatest expertise, so you can (as I did) click through to see what Wikipedia has to say about gypsy swing if you’re so inclined.

The group performed two sets at the Bee Bop Café, delivering the sort of performance I’d expect in a ’50s or ’60s jazz club, a cool night out in a setting with an air of sophistication. The “fellas” were tight when supporting Ami’s vocals, loose and adventurous when called-for, and occasionally a bit playful in their instrumentation. “Coco” frequently became the fourth instrument, as is the case in many jazz performances, scatting along with or in response to one of her bandmates. Just as notably, once every few songs, she would hold a note impressively long, often matching a note-holding cohort. In all, an exceptional outfit, well-matched and up to their collective task.

Coco 'n' the Fellas at the Bee Bop Cafe

photo by Geoff Wilbur

After a music-only opening, Ami joined the band on stage to begin the evening with “Honeysuckle Rose.” It was followed by an exceptional performance of Kenny Wheeler’s “Everybody’s Song.” The performance was smooth, like something straight out of a ’70s love story movie soundtrack, perhaps from during a montage scene. This was one such instance in which precise light instrumentation was deployed in support of Ami’s smooth, full vocal, her voice dancing around the melody, never sitting still on it.

I loved the tempo of “After You’ve Gone,” a (gypsy) swinging tune that was notably driven in parts by the electric guitar. And “If I Didn’t Have You,” an oh-so-smooth song overall, is primarily bass-driven with each guitarist moving the song along in a different segment.

At this point, Coco ‘n’ the Fellas pleased the crowd with a jazzy version of a traditional Macedonian song, one of my favorite moments of the evening, as well.

Coco 'n' the Fellas at the Bee Bop Cafe

photo by Geoff Wilbur

Another highlight was “A Red, Red Rose,” a very torchy number, one of several that showcased Ami’s strong lower register, contrasting it with the dynamic higher end of her vocal range. Ami and Joe performed as a duo on “Cheek to Cheek,” an uptempo strummer that included some serious scatting. And the band without Ami delivered an instrumental, “Dark Eyes,” that seemed like it should, on at least some occasions, inspire some jazzy folk dancing.

The second set was an extension of the first, an enjoyable performance by this talented ensemble. Rather than repeat myself too much, I made note of just three songs from the second set. “A Child is Born” is about as smooth and mellow and this quartet gets. Coco ‘n’ the Fellas original “Not Enough Coffee” doesn’t contain many words, but it is high energy, I noted, as if the song itself was actually hyped up on too much coffee (in a fun way, of course). And I noticed great energy on the group’s performance of “King of the Swingers,” a recording of which you’ll actually find on YouTube from one of the band’s London shows last fall.

Looking Ahead

Per the “live” tab on band’s website, Coco ‘n’ the Fellas continue their European tour in Bulgaria and Italy before returning to London. However, the dates on the website are off by one (unless they’ve been corrected since I checked since the band is aware of it), so you’d be better served to rely on this Facebook photo, which lists the correct dates, though it’s a little incomplete. Tonight (June 30th), the group is at Menthol in Varna (though it may be too late by the time I’ve posted this for you to get to the show), tomorrow (July 1st) at the In the Jazz Bar in Stara Zagora, and Sunday, July 2nd at Jazz Club Studio 5 in Sofia. In a couple weeks, the group will have a few dates in Italy. And then they return to London, with a few shows booked through August. The band tells me they’ll be in Ireland later this year, too. Be sure to check the band’s website (and/or its Facebook page) or the venue websites for additional information. And, of course, double-check the dates.

 

Album Review: Lucid Fly – Building Castles in Air

Lucid Fly

photo courtesy of Head First Entertainment

Album Review of Lucid Fly: Building Castles in Air

Building Castles in Air is the fourth release from heavy progressive rockers Lucid Fly since 2005, but it’s the band’s first full-length release. Nikki Layne (vocals), Doug Mecca (guitarist), and Aaron Ficca (drums) combine their talents to create a powerful, weighty, brooding tour de force.

The album moves along at a slow tempo, as if weighed down by its heavy guitars and drums, carrying its power slowly and deliberately. Yet even with all of its weight, Lucid Fly finds the ability to soar, lifted at least in part by Nikki Layne’s rising, falling, soaring vocals, but also by the progressive nature of its instrumentation, able to reach exceptional heights without losing any strength and power.

Vocally, Nikki reminds me a lot of Rescue Aurora‘s Brittany Flynn. Though Lucid Fly is progressive heavy metal while now-defunct (and much less widely-known) Rescue Aurora was heavy alt-rock, the two bands’ penchant for powerfully deliberate tempos further amplifies their vocalists’ similarities.

Lucid Fly - Building Castles in Air

image courtesy of Head First Entertainment

Lucid Fly opens Building Castles in Air with “Billowy and Broken,” easing the listener into the band’s power with bits and pieces of unleashed fury displayed periodically, offset by an erstwhile mellowly soaring music bed and strong vocals, mixing softness with strength and power. By the end of the song, the shift has been made to power; a perfect entrée into the heavy progressive rock world that is Building Castles in Air.

Stylistically, this could easily be listened to as a mood-setting album, a work that creates a feeling, with individual songs being less important than the complete collection. It suggests the sort of band whose concert would be amazing simply because of an overriding sound, one that draws listeners in for that reason alone. Then, of course, after multiple listens, the songs begin to separate themselves, carve their individual identities, and favorites begin to emerge.

“Billowy and Broken” is one standout, and it’s followed by another, “Circles Into Squares,” with edgy vocals punctuating the powerfully atmospheric guitar line.

“No I in Voice” shares its power in a seemingly asymmetrical manner, as if the whole song is off-balance and about to topple over, atmospheric in parts, yielding to driving power via forceful drumming and a whirling, heavy guitar line. I never really quite groove along with the song, as it always seems a bit askew – very creatively interestingly so.

Lucid Fly

photo courtesy of Head First Entertainment

“Ribbons” would stand out by itself, but it serves the purpose of steadying the ship, as well, by immediately following “No I in Voice.” “Ribbons” hints at the same whirling guitar in spots, but it’s more of a straight-ahead, steadily-balanced, centered mid-tempo rock tune. One with pleasingly powerful vocals, occasionally soaring with the music, building in power and releasing during softer musical bridges.

Finally, the last song I’ll mention individually is “Next to Strange.” It has an incessantly driving rhythm with interestingly tempo-overriding vocals seeming to soar but actually just punctuating the song’s gentle intensity. This is, at least to me, quintessential progressive hard rock at its finest.

As a whole, Lucid Fly’s Building Castles in Air is an all-encompassing listen. It envelopes the listener with a slow but heavier-than-a-brick-wall progressive sound, as powerfully weighty as it is musically meanderingly progressive. Again, it almost seems odd to review the individual songs as the entire album is an entity, a terrific beginning-to-end listen. It also captures such power that I’m guessing Lucid Fly must most certainly deliver a blow-your-face-off live performance worth seeing… and feeling.

Album Review: Lindsey Luff – Lindsey Luff

Lindsey Luff

photo by Dustin Cohen; photo courtesy of Lindsey Luff

by James Morris, Contributing Blogger

Album Review of Lindsey Luff: Lindsey Luff

This self-titled debut album from Lindsey Luff is hyper radio-friendly. I would go so far as to say it is an album full of singles. But there is so much more to this record than its glossy radio appeal. Get under the surface and you discover a deeper introspective worth. The singer has created an album to be proud of whilst candidly revealing a life of heartache and pain. These are raw emotions dressed up in such a well-presented musical package that it offers both passing radio play enjoyment and for the more discerning, a darker more rewarding experience.

“Music has been a really healing process for me,” says Lindsey. “I think this record is a story of the pain I’ve gone through in my life. It’s me processing that anger, and giving it a name and a face. It adds skin and bones to everything I’ve dealt with, and it makes it clear that those things don’t define me.”

Lindsey has an absorbing and plaintive voice; an intriguingly lazy drawl with a depth of world weariness. She puts it to good use in this revealing and beautifully concise 32-minute, 9-track album.

Lindsey Luff

cover design by Stephen Brayda; photo by Dustin Cohen; image courtesy of Lindsey Luff

There are some real standout moments here, plus a few tracks that happily grow on you. Opening track “Anything at All” is certainly a grower for me. After a few listens I found myself enjoying it more and more and liked the “Ticket to Ride” line which nicely referenced Lindsey’s childhood listening preferences.

Second song, “Until It’s True,” has a driving beat and bright sound that put me in mind of Fleetwood Mac and KT Tunstall, which also applies to the next track, “Remind Me,” which comes at you with a country pop kick and ultra catchy chorus. Could be my favourite track, but the more I listen, the more contenders there are. What a great dilemma to have.

“If You’re Leaving” starts slowly with a great drum groove (bit like Paul Simon’s “50 Ways To Leave Your Lover”), and I have to admit, although it highlights the sonic geek in me, I really enjoyed the drum sound on the album, especially the relaxed and airy bass drum. Musically the album is beautifully played and its level of understatement gives the songs lots of room to breathe. This is particularly prevalent in the next song, “Homecoming,” with its warm acoustic opening and delicate vocal.

Next up is “What I Wouldn’t Do.” There is something reminiscent in the intro of KD Lang. I could also imagine a later-life Roy Orbison singing this. Very solid stuff and, yet again, another very radio friendly track.

Lindsey Luff

photo by Dustin Cohen; photo courtesy of Lindsey Luff

Track 7, “Weathered,” has a wonderful 3/4 swing that works so well in creating a swaying folky vibe, underlined by a weaving Gaelic lilt.

Penultimate track is “Wishing Well,” a love song to Lindsey’s husband, longtime supporter and childhood sweetheart.

Final track “Those Days Are Gone” is a stripped-back affair, just voice and ukulele. It is a nice way to end, a moment of solitude that focuses you directly on the singer for a final thoughtful moment before enticing you to take another listen from the top.

The album was co-written with a small group of collaborators, including the Lone Bellow’s Brian Elmquist. A similar approach was taken in the recording, filling the studio with guests, including singer/songwriter Sandra McCracken.

I completely agree with Lindsey Luff’s own conclusion on the album where she states that the songs don’t overshadow the challenging circumstances that birthed them. This is well-constructed, classic songwriting that draws from the musical influences of her childhood. Classic pop-style melodies woven through an alt-country landscape. This is a musically polished work but with the rough edge of painful raw emotions left unchecked. In the wrong hands it could have sounded mawkish, but Lindsey’s painful lyrics are delivered so boldly and honestly that the experience is very real, engaging and highly listenable.

It has been a pleasure to discover Lindsey’s music through this album, which is available now for download and streaming. Discover more through her website, where you can keep an eye out for any live shows at www.lindseyluff.com.

Live Review: Pesky J. Nixon at Front Street Concerts

Pesky J. Nixon

photo by Geoff Wilbur

Pesky J. Nixon

Front Street Concerts, Hopkinton, MA

June 17, 2017

Pesky J. Nixon

photo by Geoff Wilbur

Before this evening, I had heard of Pesky J. Nixon, but I had never seen the band perform live.  A regionally touring folk band, Pesky J. Nixon plays locally occasionally, but they were just one of many top bands I hadn’t yet fit into my schedule. That changed last night.

Featuring two options for lead vocals, an accordion, and a mandolinist/fiddler, Pesky J. Nixon can cover a variety of musical real estate, centered on folk. The group shines when it features its immensely strong vocal harmonies. And its sense of humor, especially live. An evening with Pesky J. Nixon is a lighthearted affair featuring a cadre of top-shelf musicians.

Pesky J. Nixon

photo by Geoff Wilbur

The band opened with its cover of “Look at Miss Ohio,” showcasing its great harmonies. The first set also featured a smooth folk groove on Woody Guthrie’s “Oklahoma Hills,” great fiddling and harsh vocals on Buffalo Springfield’s “Stop Children What’s That Sound,” and an energetic, groovy, and fun cover of “Easy Chair.”

The amazing Ansel Barnum joined the band for the final song of the opening set, the smooth, lilting original “Breathe in Autumn.” Ansel would play on the final three songs of the second set, as well.

Pesky J. Nixon

photo by Geoff Wilbur

Second set highlights included a cover of Ryan Adams’ “Two,” steeped in the band’s exceptional musicianship and strong energy. And the following song, a cover of Jimmy Ryan’s “John Brown,” in which the accordion and drums drove the rhythm, harmonies and co-lead vocals added texture, and there was a mandolin solo. Indeed, this performance of “John Brown” ticked all the boxes of a great Pesky J. Nixon song, cover or original.

The cover of Jeffrey Foucault’s “Americans in Corduroys” was a more sentimental number, an easy song to just close your eyes and soak into.

Pesky J. Nixon

photo by Geoff Wilbur

The return of Ansel Barnum closed the evening with three more crowd-pleasers. First, a Pesky J. Nixon original, “Anna Lee” dabbled in harmonies, accordion, and harmonica. No, I wouldn’t call it bluegrass, either; we’ll just say it’s bluegrass-inspired and leave it at that.

Next up was an energetic, fun, rollicking rendition of “Talk About Heaven,” a Tim Gearan tune on which Pesky J. Nixon brought its most intense energy of the evening.

Pesky J. Nixon

photo by Geoff Wilbur

And the “encore” was a real treat. A melancholy, nostalgic, wistful folk rendition of… “Girls Just Want to Have Fun.” Complete with singalong. Did I mention that sense of humor? Indeed, though mostly present in the between-song banter, clearly it also creeps into song selection. Truly, they did a heck of a job with it. And it drew to a close an exceptional evening of folk and folk-adjacent music from a talented band.

Pesky J. Nixon

photo by Geoff Wilbur

Looking Ahead

Pesky J. Nixon lists four upcoming shows on the band’s events calendar, though I’d suggest checking back as more gigs are added. First, on June 25th, the band will perform with Miles to Dayton as part of the Sunday Street Acoustic Series at the Long Island Museum in Stony Brook, NY.  Next up, they’ll take part in the Falcon Ridge Folk Festival August 3rd-7th in Hillsdale, NY. On September 15th, they’ll be local again, joining the Durham County Poets at the Amazing Things Arts Center in Framingham, MA. And on September 23rd, you can catch them at Common Ground Community Concerts in Hastings-On-Hudson, NY.

Front Street Concerts has four more concerts currently scheduled this summer: Peter Mulvey on Thursday, July 13th; Andrea Gillis & Marc Pinansky on Saturday, July 29th; Danielle Miraglia on Saturday, August 12th; and Tim Gearan on Saturday, August 19th.

Live Review: Ibby at The Farmer’s Daughter

Ibby

photo by Geoff Wilbur

Ibby

The Farmer’s Daughter, North Easton, MA

June 16, 2017

Tonight’s show was an album release party for Ibby’s new disc, Cross Your Heart. In the past several years, I’ve only been to one other hometown album release event at a venue filled with friends and family like this – TOS’ in Maynard last summer. Sure, I’ve been to album release concerts in the city, but this is a unique sort of event with its own energy, one where relatives, neighbors, coworkers past and present, and (especially for a recently-graduated 18-year-old like Ibby) school friends seem to comprise nearly the entire audience.

Ibby

photo by Geoff Wilbur

From the start, Ibby adorably, enthusiastically cheerful, fully enjoyed the spotlight and every moment – contagiously so, in fact; it’s clear this fearless singer-songwriter is completely at home performing.

Frequently, Ibby’s songs reminded me of other talented artists. Not in the entirety – which is to say, she has an original sound of her own – but elements of her songs recalled others for comparison. Unfortunately, I was rarely able to get beyond “what is the name of that song this reminds me of?” last night, so I’ll have to hope I can make more of those connections for you later this summer when I review the CD. Suffice it to say, Ibby’s songs will quickly feel familiar while remaining uniquely hers.

Ibby’s vocals are warm and rich with plenty of well-placed vocal cracks adding emotion and emphasis. Her strumming was steady and strong with varying patterns giving the songs unique textures. And, as I noted, her cheerful-yet-thoughtful, enthusiastic stage presence was cute and endearing. It’s a combination likely to win over any audience of music fans.

Ibby

photo by Geoff Wilbur

Ibby’s music is pop singer-songwriter fare, occasionally veering into folk-pop, sometimes sporting a hint of country, written about and inspired by events in her life. It’s a glimpse at the ups and downs of a teenager’s world, if that teenager is as introspective and self/world-aware as a good, young songwriter must be. Musically, I’d expect to hear her music in coffeehouses, nightclubs, and festivals (and on the radio). And, as with any song-driven music, it should transition well between acoustic and full-band performances, as opportunities arise, obviously sounding more folky when it’s just a girl with her acoustic guitar.

She kicked the evening off with “Breathin’,” a song driven by its strumming pattern and featuring an emotionally scratchy vocal. The next song, slightly folky pop-rocker “How Did I End Up Missing You,” coupled insistent vocals with forceful strumming, mixing a cracking voice with a combination of other tuneful vocal elements to create a memorable, distinctive-yet-familiar sound.

Ibby

photo by Geoff Wilbur

Other songs stood out during the evening, as well. “88 Keys” deployed a heavier strum, building and getting louder during the song. “Pier 17” was performed in a pop-folk style with the energy of a “travelling song,” its tempo causing it to always seem to be going somewhere. And “Lightning Don’t Strike Twice” was rather soaring and exceptionally engaging.

“My Dear” deploys a steady tempo with vocals rising and falling to pull the listener in, utilizing the insistent, emotional wail Ibby places so well (and not infrequently) in her songwriting.

During her second set, Ibby dipped into her “back catalog” a bit, with a bit more country in the sound of songs like “Dance,” which I believe she said she wrote in 8th grade, a song she performed with infectious cheerfulness, clearly having a grand time and exuding joy while singing it. She followed it with another “old favorite,” “Worst I Ever Had,” and both of these songs had this room full of her old friends singing along throughout. Like I said, hometown album release parties are a different species of animal.

Ibby

photo by Geoff Wilbur

Ibby also featured a couple new songs in the second set. One, whose title I didn’t catch, was a poignant song artistically using its words and sounds to paint a picture. The other, “Better Now,” sported an interesting rhythm and some ambitious vocal moves, including a little warble to draw attention to the bridge. This one, “Better Now,” may have legs for Ibby, as it’s catchy enough to become a singalong song by the end of the first listen.

Speaking of singalong, Ibby closed her second set with “Burnouts,” a fun “local favorite.” To that warble, Ibby adds a bit of a howl in this song, and on this particular night, with a venue singing along, she was completely emotionally and musically invested in this song; her energy only increased as the night wore on, buoyed by her own performance.

Ibby’s encore song, “Can’t Forget It,” was a sensitive, tender, touching, folky singer-songwriter piece. And then the evening ended, as the venue was closing, though the crowd would have stayed for another set.

It’s obvious Ibby isn’t a “developing talent.” She’s a developed talent whose future growth will be like that of any artist, as life events and continued maturity will provide different life experiences to write about and connected with, different viewpoints and thoughts to share. But she’s clearly “ready” now, creating engaging, emotional songs as a songwriter and performing them with infectious enthusiasm and skill.

Looking Ahead

Ibby performs again this afternoon at the Beverly Arts Festival – or she probably already has performed by now, as the All You Got Tour performers’ time slot was listed on this notice as 10:30-3:30. Follow Ibby’s Facebook page to see when and where she’ll perform next.