EP Review: Matt Westerman – Life Out Loud

Matt Westerman

photo courtesy of FARdigital PR

by James Morris, Contributing Blogger

EP Review of Matt Westerman: Life Out Loud

Reviewing new music can be a bit daunting. Expectations are high, and you always want to stumble upon something that you love. Personally, I like to be grabbed when I listen to something for the first time. It is not always obvious what it is that sparks that interest; it may be a melody or a clever lyric or a mood or the rhythm that sweeps you up.

It’s the same with a film or a book. The narrative is key. I want to be interested in the characters, intrigued by the story. I want to be drawn in so I stick around to find out how it turns out.

Matt Westerman - Life Out Loud

image courtesy of FARdigital PR

The big question is, does the new EP from Matt Westerman make me feel this way? Let’s see…

Matt Westerman is a Los Angeles-based singer/songwriter and Life Out Loud is his debut EP. His website says that he “writes upbeat acoustic pop songs with a positive, compassionate message meant to uplift and inspire listeners everywhere”.

In the last few years, Westerman has been carving out his dreams on stage, with gigs all over the Southern California area, from clubs to bars and even busking on the Santa Monica pier.

The EP features 6 tracks happily sitting in the popular mainstream with an easy pop presence. Lots of people will love this music, even if there are many other contemporary singer-songwriters competing for the same listener’s ear.

The opening song, “Don’t Give Up On You,” and following track, “One Fine Day,” are clearly the best of the collection with a smooth acoustic pop delivery.

“Don’t Give Up On You” starts a bit like a modern-sounding twist on a Simon and Garfunkel song but then grows through its positive vibe chorus to something more akin to Damien Rice or James Blunt. Matt Westerman’s voice is very much in the style and range of these singers.

Matt Westerman - Don't Give Up On You

image courtesy of FARdigital PR

“One Fine Day” has a Jack Johnson groove which confirmed my feeling that the EP had one foot in 2005, when a lot of singer songwriters were making an impact on the charts. Given their success, it is not a bad vein to mine.

The EP benefits greatly from the production of Brad Swanson, whose tracks can be heard in popular shows like Smallville, CSI and Ghost Whisperer. Matt is also joined by many notable session players including pedal steel player Marty Rifkin, a longtime Bruce Springsteen collaborator, and session journeyman Sean Hurley on bass, who has performed on John Mayer’s records.

There is so much potential for this debut release, and in this streaming age it won’t cost you anything to check it out for yourself. It would be worth doing just that, and then if you like what you hear you can commit to buying yourself a copy.

So whilst you all go and make up your own mind by giving Matt a listen, I still have to answer that big question I set earlier. How did it make me feel?

Well, here we have beautifully made music, with crisp and clean production. The songs are successfully populist in their themes of hope and love and deliver a pleasant FM radio wash.

I could argue that I felt it lacked an original edge and maybe I would have liked more narrative in the lyrics, but should this style of easy going, light touch, acoustic pop, really need to trouble itself with such ambition? Probably not, and I see from looking at Matt’s profile on Spotify he has a great many plays and monthly listeners, so it would seem his approach is, as I already said, a very popular one and I guess, at the end of the day, if it works for the many, who am I to doubt it?

Anyway, after any misgivings I had on first listen when it didn’t instantly grab me, I am glad to say that after many more, Matt’s debut release is definitely and positively a grower and worthy of your attention, so go listen.

Looking Ahead

Matt’s website currently list just a single show, a February 6th, 2018 data at Bar Lubitsch in West Hollywood, CA. See the “shows” page on his website for additional details and future shows as they’re added.

Alternatively hook up with him on social media, Facebook or Twitter.

Publisher’s Addendum

“One Fine Day” has made its way onto my personal smartphone playlist, the one whose first several shuffled-up songs during a breakfast or lunch out I periodically share with my twitter followers, dubbing it a breakfast (or lunchtime) playlist. One fine day (pun intended), since I carry “One Fine Day” on my phone, it’ll shuffle up this song from Matt. – Geoff Wilbur

Live Review: Lori Diamond & Fred Abatelli at Second Friday Sessions

Lori Diamond & Fred Abatelli with Kim Jennings

photo by Geoff Wilbur

Lori Diamond & Fred Abatelli

Second Friday Sessions, Unitarian Church of Marlborough and Hudson, Hudson, MA

December 8, 2017

You’ve read about Lori Diamond and Fred Abatelli here before – a live review and an album review. So I’ll keep this live review brief, since I’ve gone into great detail in the previous two reviews. Plus, I was out enjoying myself, so I barely took any notes beyond jotting down song titles.

The event was Second Friday Sessions, a monthly open mic night – built around a talented, well-known “featured performer” each month – at the local unitarian church. On this night, Lori and Fred were the featured performers.

Lori Diamond & Fred Abatelli with Kim Jennings

photo by Geoff Wilbur

I arrived about an hour into the evening and caught the last couple songs of a band full of young musicians, Paradox, gaining some valuable on-stage experience. Next up were Lori and Fred, who were joined on stage by another well-known local musician, Kim Jennings. This was a real treat for me, since I hadn’t gotten out to hear Kim before. Though, vocally, she was limited to background harmony duty, what a crisp, clear, great voice she has!

Of course, I knew what to expect from Lori and Fred. Lori has a rich, warm powerful voice that’s also hits impressive high notes. Fred’s vocals, as well, are strong, and his guitar-playing is really something special. In fact, I’ve commented that Fred does things on his acoustic guitar you usually only hear attempted on electric guitars. And for good reason. Fred’s exceptional, understated talent – so obvious if you’re really paying attention – allows his wizardry to bring a liveliness and attention to detail to the duo’s adult contemporary repertoire that’s rarely heard in this musical subgenre, especially true outside the nationally-famous few.

The eight-song set opened with “Good Harbor,” a crowd favorite that evokes emotion. Then “The Outside,” the first to feature some of Fred’s special guitar-playing.

Lori Diamond & Fred Abatelli with Kim Jennings

photo by Geoff Wilbur

On the first two songs, Lori sang lead, but “All Comes Round” was sung more as a duet. It was followed by a cover of Joni Mitchell’s “River.”

Lori and Fred unveiled a brand new original, “The Good in You,” a song with a fun, light positive energy. It showcased a head-turning intricate guitar run by Fred and kind of an “Outside”-ish vocal vibe in some of Lori’s soaring vocals. This one’s a keeper!

Next came “True,” a song with soaring vocals that strikes me as very piano ballady even in spite of the guitar parts. And the duo’s very cool rendition of “Wayfaring Stranger,” a song that appears on Lori & Fred’s album Lifted, performed in such an original arrangement they really make it their won.

The evening closed with “Lifted,” a song featuring Fred’s vocals in the lead, supported by keyboards and allowing a chance to really showcase stunning backing vocal harmonies from Lori and Kim.

I’m glad I was able to get out to this show. It’s always fun see Lori and Fred perform. The music’s so mellow but performed with such energy; it’s always an evening you’ll walk away from smiling and glad you came.

Looking Ahead

I don’t see the next Second Friday Session listed, but keep an eye out for it, presumably around the second Friday of each month.

A house concert tonight, Saturday, is Lori & Fred’s last currently-scheduled performance of 2017, but they already have several shows scheduled for 2018. On January 13th, they’ll be at the Original Congregational Church in Wrentham, MA. On March 25th, they’re scheduled to perform at the Amazing Things Arts Center in Framingham, MA. On June 9th, they’ll be performing at the Newton Festival of the Arts in Newton, MA. And on July 21st,  they’ll be at the Shrewsbury Public Library in Shrewsbury, MA. See the “Tour” page of their website for details. And check back as they add more dates.

Album Review: Fernando Perdomo – The Golden Hour

Album Review of Fernando Perdomo: The Golden Hour

Fernando Perdomo is a modern manifestation of a ’70s/’80s soft rock reimagination of Tom Jones, crooning love songs with warm, fully orchestrated rock ‘n roll sound beds. Musically, he’s a ’70s/’80s slow rocker, someone whose music suggests influences from Moody Blues to John Lennon, his rolling soft rock numbers offering hints of the more piano-heavy numbers from the repertoires of Kansas or Styx.

The Golden Hour kicks off with “Sunset (Intro),” a piano intro that leads into a rich, lush, slow, Moody Blues-esque crooner, “Sleep.”

Fernando then picks up the tempo with “Spotlight Smile,” a familiarly comfortable, totally laid-back yet energetic ’70s guitar pop-rock-ish number, something well-suited to a concert on the beach. Perhaps the beach shown on the album cover.

Fernando Perdomo - The Golden Hour

image courtesy of ACR Management

Indeed, beaches, palm trees, and sunsets seem to be the perfect backdrop for most of The Golden Hour‘s songs. The next track, “Look At the Moon,” deploys some mild guitar hooks a bit reminiscent of Cheap Trick. Mellow Cheap Trick.

“Here With Me” is a nice ballad, its guitar hinting at a Hawaiian twang. “Sunset,” meanwhile, opens with a guitar sound and vocal intro relatively akin to Pink Floyd. The mellowest Pink Floyd you’ve ever heard.

“Love Loss Repeat” is one of my favorite songs on the album, lyrically a clever thought, with standard mid-tempo drumming, mellowly powerful melodic rises and falls, and interesting supplemental harmonies. Perhaps my very favorite is “I Feel (Therefore I Am),” with an interesting, classic guitar line, mid-tempo rock with a bit of an ’80s distorted axe flair.

A couple more songs are standouts, as well. “When You’re Here With Me” is a close-your-eyes, turn-out-the-lights slow rock swayer, suitable for an arena full of lighters held high, with a late-song guitar solo driving home that classic arena rock lineage. And album-ender “Gold,” even though it protests “I’m tired of sleeping/It’s time to live” sways and jangles almost as if it wants to put the listener to sleep. As such, it’s a great closing number, gently lifting the covers up on this engaging 13-song soft, classic, ’70s-era, lushly produced pop-rock album and putting it to bed.

Excellent musicianship, tight songwriting, and warm, precise production combine to deliver The Golden Hour, a disc that clearly showcases Fernando’s talent from the first listen and whose songs’ initially apparent strengths grow on you with repeated listens, as you start to notice the precision and interesting details.

Kansas, Cheap Trick, Moody Blues… Fernando Perdomo is a soft pop-rock version of a lot of my favorite old rock bands. And that’s pretty cool for whenever I want to hear good music with rich, lush, full production, but don’t want it too loud. Per Fernando’s website, The LA Weekly says he’s “The millennial answer to Todd Rundgren.” Yeah. I wish I had thought of that.

Looking Ahead

I don’t see any upcoming shows listed on the Events tab of Fernando’s Facebook page, but be sure to check back regularly to see, particularly if you’re in southern California, since he’s based in Los Angeles.