Live Review: The Chills at Bolton Street Tavern

The Chills at Bolton Street Tavern

photo by Geoff Wilbur

The Chills

Bolton Street Tavern, Marlborough, MA

August 19, 2017

The Backstory

I don’t often review cover bands. Not because I have anything against cover bands, though. Back when I published Geoff Wilbur’s Renegade Newsletter, particularly in the local editions of that publication, I reviewed a broad cross-section of local live music performances, and you can find some amazing musicians in cover bands who’ve simply chosen to take their music another route, whether earning a living on the cover band circuit or performing as weekend warriors while balancing solid non-music careers and family responsibilities. And I love hearing my favorite songs performed live by great musicians.

The Chills at Bolton Street Tavern

photo by Geoff Wilbur

These days, though, I don’t get out as much. I devote my handful of album reviews each month to talented bands producing amazing music, and I often spend my handful of nights either going to see targeted favorite artists or to see earlier sets. And while I might find an acoustic cover artist in an earlier time slot, cover bands rarely begin before 9:00, often a bit later (even if they’re scheduled to start at 9:00). Because of that and the robust original music scene in this part of the country, very few cover bands grace the Blog‘s pages.

But last night, an extremely talented old friend of mine performed with his band, The Chills, just a few miles from my house. In fact, if you read the “about” portion of the band’s Facebook page, you can see the exceptional pedigrees of the musicians in The Chills. Bonk Coelin (drums, vocals) has performed with The Bruce Marshall Group, The First, Viper, The Cherries, and Overstreet. Stephen “Sharky” Beccia (bass, vocals) was in Anxiety, Busted Allie, Cement, Frantic City, Robbin Banks, Uncle Wally, the Jenny Aia Band, Kate Russo, and One Eleven (111). And you may know David Allyn Steele (guitar, vocals) from the original Boston Brats, Trash Broadway, Love It To Death, and HatTrick (in which Bonk was also a band member). When I was just starting my journalism career in Boston, Trash Broadway was a fixture on the local music scene, with the band’s Torrid/Important Records album, a record produced by Chris Anderson (Cheap Trick, Todd Rundgren), placing it just one stepping stone away from international stardom. In any case, my familiarity with David led me to The Chills, and their performances are always an opportunity to enjoy a great night out. Cover songs performed by some of the best musicians out there.

The Chills at Bolton Street Tavern

photo by Geoff Wilbur

The Show

The Chills’ set list – I stayed through the first set and a couple songs into the second – included a lot of songs you’ll know, rock tunes that reached popular consciousness in their day, most of them dating back to at least 20 years ago. They kicked things off with a rockin’ number, The Black Crowes’ “Hard to Handle.” From there, they adeptly worked their way through a plethora of crowd-pleasing favorites.

The Chills at Bolton Street Tavern

photo by Geoff Wilbur

Other songs that impressed me the most during the initial set were Modern English’s “I’ll Melt With You,” Queen’s “Crazy Little Thing Called Love,” and a particularly good rendition of “Sweet Home Alabama,” a song whose structure lends itself to some subtle guitar noodling, adding a little texture to the song in a way that’s not really noticeable unless you’re paying close attention, but it’s the sort of thing an exceptional cover band does to make its music just a little more interesting, one of the main reasons to seek out a cover act with the talent to add that extra flair. The Chills also delivered (to an obviously appreciative crowd) several other tightly-delivered tunes covering a broad spectrum of rock ‘n roll favorites, from “867-5309” to “Superstitious,” from “Your Mama Don’t Dance” to “Fooled Around and Fell in Love.” They closed the set with another of their more exceptional efforts, a rousing rendition of Grand Funk Railroad’s oft-covered “Some Kind of Wonderful.”

The Chills at Bolton Street Tavern

photo by Geoff Wilbur

I only stayed a couple songs into the second of The Chills’ three sets last night. They kicked the second set off with Billy Idol’s “Dancing With Myself” and followed it with the Stones’ “Honky Tonk Woman.” I’m sure the variety continued after I left. While I called it an early evening, the band and the Bolton Street Tavern’s room full of revelers continued well into the night.

Looking Ahead

Indeed, The Chills are one band that’s well worth making an extra effort to see when you want a night out, surrounded by rock and roll favorites. I don’t see any upcoming shows currently listed on the band’s Facebook page, but obviously keep checking. I often see their events pop up elsewhere before they mention them on Facebook. In addition to the Bolton Street Tavern, I’ve seen The Chills booked a few times at The PPC in Chelsea and Chopsticks in Leominster. In fact, on Chopsticks’ website I see The Chills listed on September 22nd and 23rd. And while the PPC doesn’t have any upcoming events listed on their website, a Facebook search turns up a Chills performance there on September 30th at the PPC (per this Facebook event). Obviously, as those dates approach, confirm with the venues.

Single Review: Cain Rising – “Social Man”

Geoff Wilbur’s Music Blog contributor James Morris has reviewed Cain Rising‘s first two singles – here are links to his takes on “Rear View Mirror” and “Glasgow City Spires” – and he’s penning a review of the group’s soon-to-be-released Rear View Mirror EP. I’ve heard (and enjoyed) the first two pre-released singles. I’ve not heard the rest of the EP, but I do have a copy of the third single, “Social Man,” and I thought it might be interesting to pen my own review of it. I had hoped to review it closer to the single’s June 5th release date, but as you may have noticed, my writing time has been a bit sparse this summer. I’ve been enjoying some great music this summer, and I can’t wait to tell you about more of it, but my writing time has been virtually nil. I hope I’ve now started to get back into a bit of a rhythm. In any case, let’s get to the review…

Single Review of Cain Rising: “Social Man”

Cain Rising - Social Man

image courtesy of Cain Rising

“Social Man” is a pleading, heartfelt, classic blues-based rock ‘n roll confession. It opens with frontman Southside Jimmy Price accompanied solely by a piano, with harmonica later joining the fray for emphasis. Throughout the song, Jimmy’s voice is raw, emotional, as if he’s baring his soul. The tempo never really picks up and the intensity never lessens, nor do either of these need to happen. It’s one of those honest songs that connects to the listener at a primal level. When performed live, I’d expect an arena full of fans swaying, holding lighters aloft. And there’s such an old-school feel to “Social Man,” it would have to be lighters; mobile phones simply wouldn’t feel right.

I’d hate to call this my favorite of the three songs I’ve heard so far; it’s different and isn’t really fair to compare directly, but it is a favorite.

I’m looking forward to reading James Morris’ review of Cain Rising’s full EP in the Blog soon; I hope you’ll look for it, too. In the mean time, check out Cain Rising’s third pre-released single and get to know this solid old-school rock band. Indeed, if you missed them, follow the links in the first paragraph and read James’ reviews of the first two singles; he digs a bit more into the band itself in those write-ups.

Looking Ahead

A glance at Cain Rising’s website currently lists two upcoming shows. First, on Saturday, September 2nd, at CatFest in Salford. Then, on Friday, October 21st, at The Wheatsheaf in Leighton Buzzard. And, of course, there’s an EP release in the band’s near future, too.

EP Review: Lisa Said – Estranged

Lisa Said

photo by Lynda Meier; photo courtesy of Howlin’ Wuelf Media

EP Review of Lisa Said: Estranged (Tall Short Records)

Jangly, raucous, old-school punk-influenced alt-rock. It has been more than 25 years since I last heard The Hendersons perform in several of Boston’s diviest bars in ’90 or ’91, but I’m pretty sure this is a lot like what they sounded like. And they were old-school at the time. I’m sure there’s a more widely-known comparison out there, but I don’t personally have a lot of hooky old-school punk-driven alt-rock in my memory bank or my music collection. I do, however, know great music that deserves a spot on my personal playlist when I hear it, and this is definitely that. So I’ll just dive into describing the songs on Lisa Said‘s attention-seeking (and attention-worthy) 4-song collection, Estranged, still relatively hot off the presses from its July 7th release.

Swampy punk-blues guitar riffs punctuate the too-cool, ’70s punk-pop disc-opener “Some Dudes.” I can picture it as the soundtrack of a TV commercial advertising a retro-chic new muscle car, driving along a beachfront road, with tanned beachgoers, surfer dudes, rollerbladers, and families turning to watch the car drive by, jaws dropped. The album notes mention Seth Kauffman as the electric guitarist on this song; his chops combine with Lisa’s vox to produce a memorable sound.

Lisa Said - Estranged

image courtesy of Howlin’ Wuelf Media

“Regular Guy” perhaps most encapsulates Lisa’s sound on this album. It’s pop alt-rock that comes across like a raw, stripped-down Chrissie Hynde. It almost has a first-draft feeling, as if recorded in one take and filtered through old cassette player/boombox speakers before being remixed to produce its warm-yet-raw sound. There’s still an electric guitar line with a bit of a crunch dancing in the background for emphasis – Joel Schantz is credited as the electric guitarist on this track – but this is a support element, not the main driver of “Regular Guy.” With all of its interesting elements and subtle coolness, this one will grow on you.

The crunchy electric guitars are gone for the second half of the EP, with “Peel the Moon” combining some more emotional soft howls with a jangly guitar song-engine to provide a sound that’s peppier than its mid-to-slow tempo might otherwise suggest, sure to put a hop in your step as you bop along to the music. And you’ll skip or dance a bit wherever the almost-country-style guitar picking steps to the fore. Good music to play on your headphones while walking through the park on a sunny day. Or perhaps while walking along a two-track dirt road in the country. In either case, you’ll be smiling.

The EP closes with “Up Not Down,” which immediately strikes a more thoughtful tone and slower tempo, though still relatively light. Lisa’s voice is easy to listen to, even as there’s a little rough edge to both her voice and her vocal delivery here. There’s a hint at the swampiness of the EP-opener and a little Americana-ish flavor to this song in such a way that causes you to more easily identify this influence, a bit obscured by other elements, in the EP’s earlier tracks.

When I first heard Estranged, I knew I wanted to review it. It covers a lot of ground for such a cohesive collection, suggesting it’s just the tip of the iceberg for what Lisa can accomplish musically. And if you look into her background, from her days in various bands and her previous solo work, you’ll see she has already established a great deal of musical depth and breadth. So if you’ve only just newly discovered Lisa Said, as I have, there’s some back-catalog solo work to explore while enjoying this EP and awaiting what comes next.

Looking Ahead

The only upcoming show listed on the “Events” page of Lisa’s website is tomorrow, August 15th at the Black Cat in Washington, DC. (Here’s the Facebook event page for the show.) This is music that should translate exceptionally well to a live show, so if you’re in DC, try to get out to tomorrow night’s show. And keep an eye on her website for upcoming gigs.

Live Review: Danielle Miraglia at Front Street Concerts

Danielle Miraglia (The Glory Junkies Trio)

photo by Geoff Wilbur

Danielle Miraglia

Front Street Concerts, Hopkinton, MA

August 12, 2017

Danielle Miraglia is a Boston treasure. Period. We are fortunate enough to have one of the best regional blues-centered music artists in our midst, a special performer whose full band shows (with her band, the Glory Junkies) are blues-rock and whose solo acoustic shows are more blues-folk, but they always carry that original Danielle Miraglia spark, that glint in her musical eye, and that fun, amusingly thoughtful emotional and intellectual sincerity. The entire east coast is lucky to get a chance to experience her music during her tours, but we in the Boston area can get a regular dose of her musical magic, and the fact that she typically draws strong crowds even with her frequent performances is a testament to how much we appreciate her considerable, world-class talent. This is my fourth review of Danielle’s music since the Blog‘s launch, but it is the first in more than a year. I reviewed her last album, a 2016 set at Atwood’s Tavern, and last summer’s gig at Front Street Concerts.

Danielle Miraglia

photo by Geoff Wilbur

Front Street Concerts, meanwhile, is a favorite venue, perfect for a pleasant summer night. It’s a backyard “house concert” with a dinner buffet and a purpose-built barn featuring a stage and a sound system, with wide-open barn doors and a tent allowing most attendees to sit outside on lawn chairs. Even without the music, it would be a great place to spend a summer evening. But, of course, the concert series organizers always, dependably bring in exceptionally talented musicians.

On this particular evening, Danielle performed fronting the Glory Junkies Trio, flanked by violist Laurence Scudder and guitarist Erik White from her Glory Junkies band. Using a stomp box where added percussion was necessary (as she does during solo acoustic performances), Danielle delivered a perfectly rockin’ evening of blues and blues-rock. The Trio kicked things off with one of the songs that first turned me on to Danielle’s music, “See the Light” from her 2011 Box of Troubles release. This is almost hillbilly blues-rock, showcasing her bandmates’ skills, hinting add the offbeat humor occasionally hidden in Danielle’s lyrics, and featuring her strong, versatile voice, touching upon its raw power while built around the textured emotion that makes her mid-range so powerful.

Danielle Miraglia (The Glory Junkies Trio)

photo by Geoff Wilbur

She followed that with a pair of songs from her Glory Junkies disc. “Fair Warning” sports a cool, almost syncopated sound in its trio arrangement, while “Famous For Nothing” is driven by kind of a chunky rhythm when performed live, a cool rendition of this album favorite on this particular evening.

Next up was the first of Danielle’s new originals to be performed this evening, “All of My Heroes are Ghosts.” Classic, gritty, growly Danielle Miraglia at her best. It was during this song, in fact, that I was compelled to comment to the person standing next to me, “Oh, my God! That thing in her voice!” Vintage. Or, rather, new, since it’s one of the songs I assume will be on the album she’s currently recording.

Danielle Miraglia (The Glory Junkies Trio)

photo by Geoff Wilbur

Late in the first set came another favorite new song, the topical, timely “Make Your Own News.” On the whole, the tune chunks along like a classic blues rocker, but the bridge almost seemed to borrow from seventies pop-radio harmonies, and there was a fun viola solo well worth its own shout-out, as well.

After that, Danielle shook the joint with the raucous “Stagger Lee” before mellowing a bit on “Home,” a powerful song whose sound is always so warm and uplifting, a tune that displays the richness of Danielle’s voice that makes this sort of connection possible. And, of course, she closed the first set with a Janis Joplin cover, just one of many iconic artists whose songs fit her voice so well.

Spotted Tiger (Laurence Scudder & Erik White)

Spotted Tiger (Laurence Scudder & Erik White); photo by Geoff Wilbur

The second set started with two songs sans Danielle, as Laurence and Erik have their own band, Spotted Tiger. So we were treated to a couple Spotted Tiger tunes. The first was an almost hillbilly-ish Americana number; the second more like energetic folk. Indeed, these guys form a cool duo. I saw them perform a full set as Spotted Tiger once before, the spring before I launched the Blog.

Then Danielle was back to finish off the night. The second set featured a couple favorites from the Glory Junkies disc, “Dead End Street,” in which I love the funky pop element that interacts well with Danielle’s blues snarl, and “Coffee Stained Thank You Cards,” a song that would easily win my vote as the best blues-rock song to mention sarcastic zombies in the lyrics.

Notable, as well, was new original “Everybody’s Wrong.” This one shows off Danielle’s blues howl – my notes from the evening simply say “Grrr!” and “Wow!” – in addition to some almost Chuck Berry-esque axework by Erik White.

Danielle Miraglia (The Glory Junkies Trio)

photo by Geoff Wilbur

The final set also included several covers. There was a Dylan cover, the heartfelt, melancholy “I Want You.” And a Prince cover, of course: “Gett Off.” And notably, as usual, a show-closing, wailing rendition of Tom Waits’ “2:19,” a Danielle Miraglia concert staple that she always makes her own.

Not ready to end the evening any earlier than necessary, there was, of course, an encore. In this case, a very gospelly rendition of “Shine a Light.”

There’s rarely a better way to spend a Saturday night than at a Front Street concert. And there’s never a better evening than a Danielle Miraglia concert. Combine the two, and you get a true summer memory.

Looking Ahead

There’s just one Front Street Concerts event left this summer. That’s next Saturday, August 19th, featuring Tim Gearan. If you can get out to Hopkinton next Saturday, it’s well worth it. But you need to RSVP in advance to reserve your spot.

Danielle Miraglia (The Glory Junkies Trio)

photo by Geoff Wilbur

Danielle Miraglia, of course, has several shows on her schedule. Next up is August 26th at Lemifest in Mashpee. Then, on August 27th, as part of the Charles River Reprobates in Newburyport. You can also catch her on September 3rd at the Plymouth Folk and Blues Festival in Plymouth, VT and on September 9th at the 7th Annual Haverford Music Festival in Havertown, PA. Be sure to check the “Shows” page of her website for details and check back regularly to stay current. Indeed, this is one of the thinnest schedules I’ve seen on her website in a while, so I’m sure there will be more shows added soon.

Spotted Tiger also has a few gigs coming up, as noted on their website. They’ll be onstage tonight, August 13th, at Toad in Cambridge, MA. They’ll be at Bull McCabe’s Pub in Somerville, MA on September 22nd. And they have gigs listed in Beverly and Salem, MA and Nashua, NH on various dates from October through February. For more details, see their website.

Live Review: 4EverFab at Ellsworth-McAfee Park

4EverFab at Ellsworth-McAfee Park

photo by Geoff Wilbur

4EverFab

Ellsworth-McAfee Park (Northborough Summer Concert Series), Northborough, MA

August 10, 2107

4EverFab at Ellsworth-McAfee Park

photo by Geoff Wilbur

If you saw my review of The Mychael David Project’s show last summer, you know I’m a big fan of the Northborough Summer Concert Series. It’s a nice park, and the series reliably books talented bands. Tonight was the first time I was able to Northborough for a show this summer, and it was the last show of this summer’s series. I arrived a half hour late, but the show started a half hour late due to some technical problems, so I actually caught what may have been the first song of the evening, “She Loves You.”

It’s easy to critique a bad Beatles tribute band. And a hard critique in such an instance is well-deserved. But it’s hard to know what to write about a good Beatles tribute band. There’s no point in describing the songs; you know them by heart. All I really have to do is mention song titles – don’t worry, I will – and you can hear them in your head. So, was this a good night or a bad night? Well, 4EverFab is widely-booked and popular in a major metro area with plenty of entertainment competition, so you can do the math.

4EverFab at Ellsworth-McAfee Park

photo by Geoff Wilbur

4EverFab covered all of the Beatles’ music styles, from the early stuff to the late stuff, with aplomb. They did a great job with the crunchy rock guitars (like “Back in the USSR”), the edgy psychedelic stuff (“I Am the Walrus”), the harmonies (“Paperback Writer”), the mellower stuff (“In My Life”) and everything in-between. 4EverFab is a talented, tight outfit that could perform a broad range of music beyond the Beatles, too, you’d have to imagine, based on how well they cover the Beatles’ catalog.

Of course, the two-hour set was filled with more favorites: “Penny Lane,” “Strawberry Fields,” “Yellow Submarine,” “Ob-La-Di Ob-La-Da,” “Hey Jude,” “A Hard Day’s Night,” John Lennon’s “Imagine,” the Beatles’ “Birthday” song, and many more.

4EverFab at Ellsworth-McAfee Park

photo by Geoff Wilbur

An evening of Beatles hits performed by a top-notch Beatles tribute band like 4EverFab was a great way to end the summer’s outdoor concert series in Northborough, always an ominous sign that the summer is coming to an end.

Looking Ahead

You can catch 4EverFab at several more summer concert series around Massachusetts (and one in NH) this month, starting in Taunton tomorrow night, Friday, August 11; Burlington on August 15; Mansfield on August 16; Lynn-Nahant Beach on August 17; Plainville on August 20; Randolph on August 22; Southbridge on August 27; Danvers on August 28; and Plaistow, NH on August 30. They’ll also be performing at the Topsfield Fair on Saturday, September 30. Keep up with 4EverFab’s live performance schedule here on their website.

 

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.