Live Review: LadyLake Boston Showcase at City Winery

LadyLake Boston Showcase at The Haymarket Lounge, City Winery, Boston

photo by Geoff Wilbur

LadyLake Boston Showcase

The Haymarket Lounge, City Winery, Boston, MA

June 23, 2019

LadyLake Entertainment is a PR agency that represents several extremely talented music artists. I first discovered LadyLake back before I launched the music blog, during the ramp-up of my re-discovery of new music that eventually led me to return to music journalism. Of the three LadyLake artists featured in this showcase, held in The Haymarket Lounge within Boston’s City Winery, two were Boston-based. I had only previously been familiar with the duo of Lori Diamond & Fred Abatelli. This event was my introduction to the music of Linda Marks and David Martinez.

David Martinez

David Martinez

photo by Geoff Wilbur

A Corpus Christi, Texas-based singer-songwriter, guitarist David Martinez kicked things off with “The Otherside,” a smooth number that started out as a strummer and then slid into a groove. Next up was “I’m Alright,” a jangly tune with a sweet groove.

David proved he could do the sweet, poignant thing, as well, with his performance of “Sweet Sister.” And then, on “What You Need,” David’s music took a funky rockin’ turn, as if he was channeling Lenny Kravitz and maybe a little bit of the Rolling Stones.

David Martinez

photo by Geoff Wilbur

Next up was the title track from David’s most recent recording, “Piece of Me,” a ’90s/’00s-style acoustic singer-songwriter tune. There’s a kind of an acoustic pop-punk vocal edge in this sentimental song. Or, at least, it pays slight homage to that subgenre in the vocal and guitar style that gives “Piece of Me” its melancholy edge.

David closed his set with “Hey Mary,” a song with a catchy chorus and spoken-word, not-quite-hip-hop verses (delivered stylistically as if a movie voice-over). This song reminds me of something one of my favorite ’80s/’90s hair bands would have done back in the day. Exceptionally well put-together.

In all, a much-too-short sampling of this versatile, talented singer-songwriter’s capabilities.

Linda Marks

Linda Marks

photo by Geoff Wilbur

Boston-based Linda Marks followed, on the keyboard flanked by a guitarist and a violinist, showcasing her soaring vocals and focusing on songs from her yet-to-be-released (at the time) album In Grace, which dropped in September.

She opened with “Shallow,” a soft, soaring arrangement suited to this trio. Then “The Lion,” a song about addiction, sounding as if it was straight off of a poignant musical theater soundtrack.

Linda’s third song could have come straight out of a church service. As fellow performer and LadyLake artist Lori Diamond quipped to me, Linda’s music is liturgical. Indeed, and especially in this instant, very much so.

Linda Marks

photo by Geoff Wilbur

Linda followed with “Living on the Dark Side of the Moon,” a song she called a “torch song for a narcissist.” There’s almost a Tom Lehrer-ish, vaudevillian undercurrent in this hauntingly soaring number.

After a poignant fifth number, Linda and her band closed with their sixth song, “Light Up the Love.” A rich piano sound conveys the warmth of this song’s vocals. As throughout the set, I noticeably enjoyed the added texture of the violin while the guitar picking brought to mind a waterfall. As so often in her songs, Linda’s voice soars on this one, as well.

Lori Diamond & Fred Abatelli

Lori Diamond and Fred Abatelli with Kim Jennings

photo by Geoff Wilbur

Easy listening singer-songwriters Lori Diamond and Fred Abatelli were the evening’s final performers. They were joined onstage by Kim Jennings, just as they had been the last time I saw them perform, in December 2017. Here’s the thing about Lori and Fred. Yeah, they’re crazy talented, but also, do they ever miss a note?

They opened their set with “Good Harbor,” a favorite warm, comforting song with rich harmonies, followed by “The Outside,” whose powerful vocals splash across such subtle richness and depth of sound.

“Lifted” is one of those songs that reminds me Fred’s voice could carry anything from a mid-tempo rock group to a folky soft rock band, while also showcasing Lori’s sweet highs and rich lows. As much as Lori’s voice is more typically the signature sound of this duo, it’s easy to forget Fred’s vocal talents… until you’re emphatically reminded.

Lori Diamond and Fred Abatelli with Kim Jennings

photo by Geoff Wilbur

The duo next premiered a new tune, “The Good in You,” a rising and falling, more wall-of-sound, full-sounding song than usual. As part of the song’s coolness, I enjoyed Fred’s riffing guitar run.

Finally, Lori and Fred closed their set with their arrangement of “Wayfaring Stranger,” full of their own style and character. Lori pulls out some of her torchier, loungier vocals on this one. And Fred’s guitar has that weepy, tortured soul thing going on. A longtime crowd favorite and a great way to end the set for this transcendentally talented local duo.

Closing Number

After the end of Lori and Fred’s set, the evening’s entire line-up returned to the stage, joined by LadyLake Entertainment chief Cindy D’Adamo for a performance of “Will You Love Me Tomorrow.”

Looking Ahead

Per his Facebook page, David Martinez has a February 14, 2020 gig at Bar Under the Sun in Corpus Christi, TX.

The “Upcoming Events” page on Linda Marks’ website lists several upcoming shows in December. On December 2nd, she’ll be one of the nine members of the Women in Music Gathering to be showcasing as part of the LadyLake Music’s Charity Umbrella Initiative at the Hearing Room in Lowell, MA. On December 6th, she’ll be at the Square Root Cafe in Roslindale, MA. On December 11th, she’ll be at the RISA Songwriters in the Round event at AS220 in Providence, RI. She’ll be at the EBASS Christmas Show at The Burren in Somerville, MA on December 22nd. And on December 27th, Lucy will be one of the performers singing the music of Carole King and James Taylor at the Dedham Square Coffeehouse in Dedham, MA. See Linda’s website for more details and new dates as they’re added.

The “Tour” page of Lori Diamond & Fred Abatelli’s website lists a December 7th, 2019 gig at The Music Salon, hosted by Linda Marks (who will perform an opening set) in Waltham, MA; a March 28, 2020 performance as two-fourths of Fate’s Landing, splitting the bill with the Clark-Page Project at the Tremedal Concert Series in Watertown, MA; and  on September 20, 2020 at Applefest in Northborough, MA.

You can keep current with LadyLake Entertainment and all of LadyLake’s artists at the company’s Facebook page, its Twitter feed, and its Instagram account.

Live Review: Popa Chubby at 9 Wallis

Popa Chubby at 9 Wallis

photo by Geoff Wilbur

Popa Chubby

9 Wallis, Beverly, MA

May 10, 2019

It’s a shame I live and work in parts of the Boston area that make travel to Beverly for an evening at 9 Wallis an annoyingly difficult journey. Since shortly after it opened in April 2017, I’ve wanted to get out to this intimate concert venue/”listening room” on Boston’s North Shore. Top-notch national, regional, and the very best local acts perform there, including a lot of incredible blues artists, though far from exclusively, as personal favorite performers from many genres regularly dot 9 Wallis’ concert calendar.

Popa Chubby at 9 Wallis

photo by Geoff Wilbur

One of those rock/blues acts, of course is New York-based internationally-touring Popa Chubby. The dude’s a tour de force whose personality and talent fill the room, his shows a guaranteed good time, assuming you’re able to enjoy the blues. But I knew that before attending. Not from owning any of his recordings – though that would be a great idea – but rather from conversations with those who know and then, of course, listening to some Popa Chubby online. I had unsuccessfully attempted to squeeze a previous Popa Chubby 9 Wallis performance into my calendar, so when I saw this gig announcement, I circled the date on my calendar (figuratively speaking, of course, online) and avoided any scheduling conflicts.

On this particular night, the room was filled, and the joint was hoppin’. Popa Chubby’s vocal and performance style ranges from pure blues to rockin’ blues to rappin’ blues and beyond. Many of the songs this evening could be found on the Prime Cuts album, I believe (since it’s not in my notes, but even all these months later I recall Popa mentioning it frequently during the show), the most recent release of a long, nearly three decade career spanning dozens of albums, and a great intro to the broad range and exceptionally soulful, all-in blues style you can expect from Popa Chubby. At this 9 Wallis gig, and I get the sense this is typical based on others in the room who had been to prior Popa Chubby shows, every song was a blues jam, supported by Dave Keyes‘ talented keys with a very organ-like sound and a solid rhythm section.

Following are some highlights from the evening, as I jotted down notes whenever a song inspired me. And, truth be told, I was often so caught up in the show I didn’t think to take notes until I couldn’t remember the song titles anymore, so consider these some of the many highlights.

Popa Chubby at 9 Wallis

photo by Geoff Wilbur

Popa Chubby opened the night with a rollicking rendition of the Rolling Stones’ “Sympathy for the Devil,” featuring shredding axework, showing off the keyboardist’s skills, and absolutely great guitarwork and vocal growl.

Emotional favorite “Grown Man Crying Blues” – check out Popa Chubby’s performance of the song in this video on YouTube with nearly half a million hits – featured a shredding, wailing, and practically crying performance.

Popa Chubby original “Angel on My Shoulder” charged forward as a straight-ahead rocker with a blues strut, delivered emphatically and, of course, sporting guitar and keys jams.

Popa Chubby’s delivery of “Hey Joe” was soulful, psychedelic, progressive, and classic. “69 Dollars” kicked off with a weeping guitar opening and some edge and liquidity throughout.

Finally, in the anything-goes, full-on-enjoyment spirit of the evening, I very much dug the electric guitar-driven versions of the Godfather theme song and “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.”

Also of note, for one song during the set, the band was joined onstage by drummer Joey Pafumi of the Paul Nelson Band. And late in the set, Popa Chubby showcased his keyboardist Dave Keyes’ boogie-woogie keyboard skills. Keyes also sang vocals a little during the set, bringing a smoother blues vocal style to the songs he led vocally.

So glad I made it to this show; it was completely worth the effort, as Popa Chubby and his band gave it everything they had. And I can now confirm that 9 Wallis is, indeed, the great North Shore listening room I had heard so much about.

Popa Chubby at 9 Wallis

photo by Geoff Wilbur

Looking Ahead

Popa Chubby is currently touring in Germany, Switzerland, and Austria.  He’ll return to the northeast United States (New York, New England, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey) for a month in early/mid-December before returning to Europe for a month of gigs in the UK, France, Germany, and Switzerland. Click on the “tour” page of Popa Chubby’s website to see when he’ll next be performing near you. If you have a pulse, you’ll have a great time and be treated to some world-class blues-based musicianship and showmanship.

Single Review: Debbie Hennessey – “True Me”

Debbie Hennessey

photo by Matt Gendal; photo courtesy of Debbie Hennessey

by Eric Harabadian, Contributing Blogger

Single Review of Debbie Hennessey: “True Me”

Debbie Hennessey - True Me Single Cover

photo by Matt Gendal; image courtesy of Debbie Hennessey

Debbie Hennessey is an award-winning singer-songwriter, with many television and film credits. She has also released three full-length albums and seven singles. Her latest single is called “True Me.” It’s a heartfelt ballad that seems to draw from personal experience. Trying to put thoughts and feelings into words is, perhaps, quite challenging for most, but Hennessey does it in a plaintive yet uplifting manner. She sings with seemingly effortless phrasing that hits you where you live. The singer-songwriter’s vocals are full, rich, and dynamic, supported by Jonathan Haynes’ ethereal and somewhat bluesy guitar. “True Me” is a stellar tune in the vein of Bonnie Raitt or Sheryl Crow but remains totally unique in style and substance.

Live Performances

Debbie has a performance scheduled for February 20th Petie’s Place in Tarzana, CA. Check the calendar page of her website periodically for additional dates as they’re added.

Album Review: Dan Israel – Social Media Anxiety Disorder

Dan Israel

photo by Steven Cohen; photo courtesy of Dan Israel

by Eric Harabadian, Contributing Blogger

Album Review of Dan Israel: Social Media Anxiety Disorder

Believe it or not, Social Media Anxiety Disorder is the 15th release for this Minneapolis-based singer-songwriter. Heck, there are many major label artists that can’t claim that accomplishment! So, what’s the prodigious Minnesota troubadour been up to? Well, hot on the heels of his 2018 record You’re Free, Dan Israel climbs out of his songwriting comfort zone a little bit in favor of some clever production manipulation and playful arranging. He worked with two different producers in Jon Herchert and Steve Price, resulting in a cross-pollination of inventive ideas.

Dan Israel - Social Media Anxiety Disorder album cover

image courtesy of Dan Israel

Israel kicks things off with the horn-driven pop/rock of “Be My Girl.” It’s a strong single, with terrific airplay potential. The uptempo spark of the rhythms are complemented by Israel’s emotive Elvis Costello-like twang and a good time feel.

“125” shifts gears entirely placing the listener in a pseudo-psychedelic state. The dreamy flowing lead vocals and fuzzed out lead guitar are stellar. “Just Can’t Take It” features little quirky production ear candy bolstered by a catchy chorus and lush bridge. “Still I’m Lost” returns to that semi-psychedelic spacey kind of vibe. It’s a nice blend of thoughtful experimentation and melodic pop. It sounds like something Bowie would do.

“Might As Well Be Me” features a country-folk element. It is the closest to pure Americana you’ll probably find here. There is some tasty acoustic guitar soloing, and Israel’s vocals kind of remind me of something by John Sebastian.

Dan Israel - Social Media Anxiety Disorder album back cover

back cover; image courtesy of Dan Israel

“Another Day” is more catchy upbeat pop that this artist is known for. The slide guitar breaks here are very nice as well.

“Just Can’t Take It (Revisited)” is kind of a vocal reprise montage. Through musical snippets from the original track and spoken word, Israel slyly comments on the impinging stresses of modern society and the expectations of those involved in social media. It’s a mind-bender, for sure.

“Tired” prominently features organ and has an overall gloss similar to The Wallflowers and Crowded House. “Alright” follows and ushers in a kind of rockabilly swing. Its upbeat and bouncy groove is infectious. “Here for Today” has a simple and pragmatic message toward life of “trying to take a little and leave a little behind.” The dense guitar work here really rocks and provides a wall of sound.

Dan Israel

photo by Steven Cohen; photo courtesy of Dan Israel

The concluding two tracks “Out of My Hands” and “Out of My Hands” (Reprise)” sort of combines the spirit of the Rolling Stones album Exile on Main Street with a gospel touch. It’s a fitting way to wrap up the festivities and sends a poignant and pensive message of acceptance and soldiering on.

They say music is a healer and Dan Israel brings to light songs that can address serious topics of personal challenges and societal anxiety and present them in an entertaining and uplifting fashion.

Looking Ahead

Per the “Shows” tab on Dan’s website, he has a packed schedule of performances ahead. Currently lots of gigs in and around Minneapolis, some shows in northern Minnesota, and a January 31/February 1 house concert in Wilmington, North Carolina. So keep an eye on his website for performances in your area.

[Publisher’s Note: Geoff Wilbur’s Music Blog has reviewed each of Dan’s last three releases. I reviewed Dan’s album Dan. James Morris reviewed You’re Free. And now Eric Harabadian has reviewed Social Media Anxiety Disorder. – GW]

Live Review: Amanda White at ONCE Somerville

Amanda White at ONCE Somerville

photo by Geoff Wilbur

Amanda White

ONCE Somerville, Somerville, MA

April 15, 2019

I had intended to get out to an Amanda White show for a while now, and this was a Monday night when my schedule fell into place, and the start time was early enough that it didn’t impede getting home at a reasonable hour; I love early shows on work nights. So I ventured out to this gig, even though it meant traveling to the severely-parking-impaired town of Somerville. (I promise I’ll try to avoid a Somerville parking rant in this review. Mostly.)

Amanda White at ONCE Somerville

photo by Geoff Wilbur

I arrived in time for Amanda’s set. Backed by a talented band, she took the stage by storm. Amanda’s style is very old-school punk. Raw but tuneful music with a penchant for random profanity. But it extends well beyond that, as you can hear prog influences, while some songs feature Amanda’s venture into soaring, operatic vocal run that few can equal. If you know anything about my musical recommendations, you’ll know they’re either for well-performed pure musical styles or, more often, those with obvious external influences from a number of often-surprising other sources. You know, that plus great vocals and songwriting. Indeed, my punk rock recommendations are rare, but they are all must-listens.

Amanda White at ONCE Somerville

photo by Geoff Wilbur

The evening mostly featured songs from Amanda White’s latest CD, Kittens Give Zero Fucks. Prior to this show, I had only listened to the album online a couple of times. Though I’m more familiar with the music now, I’ll stick to my notes from the evening for this review. There’s a more detailed album review coming sometime in the future.

Amanda and her band opened the set with, according to my notes, “that soaring, moaning song.” Gotta be disc-opener “Last to Bite.” Next up was “Fuckall Rockstar,” delivered live in its full punk rock glory, much more distorted than on the recording. Exceptionally crunchy axework and an engaging driving rhythm provided the support, while the soaring vocals were opera meets Broadway meets punk. That vocal blend – one Amanda’s uniquely capable of achieving – is a recurring theme.

Energetic rocker “Whackadoodle World” (the “oh oh oh oh oh oh oh” song, per my notes) brought a bit more straightforward rocking energy to the set. Then catchy “Ur Wife,” with its hypnotic rhythm, followed.

Amanda White at ONCE Somerville

photo by Geoff Wilbur

After a soaring fifth song (“Dark Art”), Amanda reached back to her first disc, Toyshop, for “Monica’s Getting Her Tits Done,” a tune musically catchy largely due to the recurring rhythm guitar hook.

The evening’s seventh track (noted simply as “rawks!!!”) was followed by the evening’s power ballad, “Someone’s Watching Over Me,” a song that showcases vocal versatility while still being haunting and dark.

Speaking of haunting and dark – and throw in a healthy dose of foreboding – and you’re talking about the first few minutes of “Fade” before guitar and drums help the song build to a scream. With its power shifts and movements, there was a bit of a Broadway flavor to the evening’s performance of “Fade.”

And, to close our the set Amanda closed with soaring, symphonic prog-metal “Adora.” And what better set-ender. Though punk-rock attitude permeates the performance – a pure New York-style punk rock double-bill with Bad Mary would be an unforgettable event – Amanda’s singing and songwriting versatility are what sets her apart. And she and her band rocked this particular Somerville evening. Hard. Raw. And powerfully.

Allison & Moon

Allison & Moon; photo by Geoff Wilbur

The Evening’s Other Bands

The opening and closing acts of the evening were also worth catching, even though I kind-of didn’t. Evening openers The James Rocket caught my ear in my pre-show listening, but my attendance at its set fell victim to the “circling Somerville looking for parking” portion of the evening; I arrived in time to catch the last few seconds of the group’s final song. The closing set by Allison & Moon was a treat, or at least it was for as long as I stayed, but I only caught a few songs and took no notes, so I’ll have to catch them again one of these days.

Amanda White at ONCE Somerville

photo by Geoff Wilbur

Looking Ahead

Be sure to check Amanda White’s Facebook page for future gigs. At the moment, the only one listed is a February 8, 2020 show at Connolly’s in New York. The evening’s closing band, Allison & Moon, next plays on December 11th at O’Brien’s Pub in Allston, MA.

EP Review: Hobo Chang – Clockwork Monster

Hobo Chang

photo by Rob Watts; photo courtesy of Hobo Chang

by James Morris, Contributing Blogger

EP Review of Hobo Chang: Clockwork Monster

Hobo Chang, a band from North East Essex in the UK, are releasing a new EP on the 29th November. When I reviewed their previous album, Beast in 2017, I summed it up as a “hypnotic and swirling sonic landscape with a vaguely disturbing mood.”

This new EP continues in the same vein. Apocalyptic, bedsit rock with a heavy dark melancholy hanging over it, like a psychedelic, indie shroud.

Hobo Chang - Clockwork Monster

image courtesy of Hobo Chang

The songs, “Clockwork Monster,” “Nightcrawler,” “Borrowed Time,” and “Where is Your God Now,” are four tracks of intense, moody prog rock in the trademark style you would expect from the band.

No one song stands taller than another, instead they all co-exist, increasing in their dark mass, like the gravitational pull of a black hole.

If you are a fan of Hobo Chang and the music they produce then you will be extremely happy to once again be immersed in the darkness of this new music which carries all their signature, experimental, musical hallmarks.

Keep up to date with the band on social media or on their website: Facebook @hobochang; www.hobochang.co.uk; hobochang.bandcamp.com

Album Review: Norwood – Lizzy White Doesn’t Give a Fuck

Norwood band photo

photo courtesy of Norwood

by James Morris, Contributing Blogger

Album Review of Norwood: Lizzy White Doesn’t Give a Fuck

Norwood album cover

image courtesy of Norwood

Norwood’s new album, Lizzy White Doesn’t Give A Fuck, is the follow up to their 2016 album Notes to My Blood. It finds the band once again presenting fast, wordy, personally observational and quirky songs. If you haven’t heard them before and need a reference, then think indie REM meets They Might Be Giants.

Enjoyably put together with an underlying acoustic vibe enhanced by appropriately layered instrumentation. Whether it’s the violin that bows its way throughout the album or the brass on songs like “Against the Grain,” it all adds to the uplifting, unique, joyous feel of the album.

Norwood band photo

photo courtesy of Norwood

Don’t be fooled, though. On the surface it all sounds upbeat and fun, and this bright and breezy feel could easily be more than enough reason to enjoy the album. But listen harder and you can dig down to discover more of what is going on in the twisting and turning of the lyrics. The songs’ themes are refreshingly original and dripping with enough enigmatic quandary to make you really think, which is very appealing and rewarding in an often trite and cliched musical world.

Norwood band photo

photo courtesy of Norwood

If this album is your starting point for this band, then it is a great one for starters, but I would also recommend you go and discover their previous album, Notes to my Blood, as the two complement each other like cheeky, wry, indie, musical bookends.

The band have a gig coming up in Bellmore, NY on November 5th at KJ Farrell’s Bar and Grill, 242 Pettit Ave., from 7:30pm. You can find this information on the “Upcoming Shows” page of the band’s website.

Engage with the band on social media: https://www.facebook.com/norwoodtunes/.