Live Review: Bob Malone at Barn #81

Bob Malone at Barn #81

photo by Geoff Wilbur

Bob Malone

Barn #81, Hopkinton, MA

October 14, 2017

Bob Malone is one of the great rockin’ blues keyboardists of our time. Period. Berklee-trained, Bob has chiseled and honed his style among some of the best local musicians in Los Angeles, his performance skills polished over years in the studio and on the road. Since 2011 Bob’s “day job,” in fact, has been as John Fogerty’s keyboardist. And, of course, he has released some stellar blues recordings, performing his own stuff between his Fogerty gigs. On Saturday night, in this intimate “house concert” performance space in an outer suburb of Boston, Bob treated an appreciative audience to his skills.

Bob Malone at Barn #81

photo by Geoff Wilbur

And he was supported by a great band – Jeff St. Pierre on bass, Chris Leadbetter on guitar, and his old college buddy Philip Antoniades on drums. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I love catching Bob Malone with a full band, so this was perfect.

Of course, those of you who have been reading the Blog from the beginning have seen my reviews of Bob Malone. Twice, to be exact. Both times within the first three months of launch. I reviewed Bob’s October 2015 concert at the 100 Club in London as part of my “Five Nights in London” series. And I reviewed Bob’s most recent album, Mojo Deluxe, in January 2016. So you know I’d be shocked – shocked! – if Bob didn’t deliver a world-class performance. Spoiler alert: He rocked the room!

Bob Malone at Barn #81

photo by Geoff Wilbur

Bob kicked the evening off with a bang. A rollicking, rousing, energy-filled rendition of “Certain Distance.” He then followed it with one of my favorite instrumental numbers, “Chinese Algebra.” And a room-rocking performance of “I’m Not Fine,” always a song worth shouting along with at the top of your lungs. These are all songs from his most recent release, Mojo Deluxe.

“Up on Cripple Creek,” a tempo-changing energetic number from Ain’t What You Know, followed before Bob really brought the room down with a mellow, contemplative favorite from Mojo Deluxe, an insightful consideration of middle aged-ness, “Can’t Get There From Here.”

Bob Malone at Barn #81

photo by Geoff Wilbur

Bob reached back two decades to his 1996 The Darkest Part of the Night album for “I Know He’s Your Husband,” one of Bob’s songs on which his vocals sound the most Randy Newman-esque. Next up, “Don’t Threaten Me With a Good Time,” portrayed a room-electrifying energy and wow, I do love that guitar line. The intensity remained, as “Rage & Cigarettes” came next.

What followed was a really cool rendition of Tom Petty’s “Southern Accents.” In the lead-in to this homage to Petty, Bob asked “someone” to please tape this performance because, after many not-quite-right attempts, he thought he finally had it down. Indeed, he did.

Bob Malone at Barn #81

photo by Geoff Wilbur

While most of the evening’s songs were from Bob’s newest album, he again reached back to 2009’s Ain’t What You Know for the exceptionally emotionally powerful “No One Can Hurt You” (…like me). Then back to a newer track, “Toxic Love,” which simply roars, and the energetic “I Wasn’t Looking For the Blues.”

Next up Bob dipped into his Born Too Late album for “Home to Me.” Light, melancholy; cool, almost jazzy. Very cool selection to showcase yet another side of Bob Malone. Bob picked things up again with chunky, “Walk This Way”-style Steven Tyler-inspire, fast-paced vocals on the next song (whose title I can’t read in my notes).

Bob Malone at Barn #81

photo by Geoff Wilbur

The final two songs of Bob’s set were from Ain’t What You Know. First up was the title track, which turned into a serious jam, and was followed by a rowdy rendition of “Stay With Me” that transformed the end of Bob’s set into a disco ball-spinning dance party (of which there is some photographic proof a couple pictures down).

Bob’s encore was the sentimental “Paris,” a slow, swaying, arena-filling ballad that’s a signature Bob Malone song, a sentimental, emotional, scene-painting, perfect selection to end the evening for an enthusiastic room full of his fans.

Bob Malone at Barn #81

photo by Geoff Wilbur

I love gigs like this. If you keep your eyes open, there are chances to catch some of the most talented musicians in the world in intimate settings full of friends and neighbors, and they’re truly special evenings. I’m glad to have finally made it to my first Barn #81 gig, too – I had heard about the shows in this cool setting. And I knew Bob had played here before, but until Saturday night I didn’t realize the concert series was run by one of his old college buddies from Berklee. But hey, a friendly atmosphere with a talented band featuring one of the premiere blues musicians in the world, and it ended almost as a dance party? What a Saturday night!

Bob Malone at Barn #81

photo by Geoff Wilbur

Looking Ahead

The “tour dates” page of Bob’s website lists several shows around the U.S. over the rest of 2017 and into 2018, with solo gigs in Georgia, North Carolina, Florida, New Jersey, New York, West Virginia, and Pennsylvania in the coming months, and performances as John Fogerty’s keyboardist in Oklahoma and Texas, plus a 10-day stretch of John Fogerty gigs in January in Las Vegas. Be sure to check Bob’s website for details and for additional performances as they’re added.

Barn #81 is a great venue, a relaxed atmosphere full of friends. I don’t see any future events listed on the Barn #81 Facebook events page, but I do see Jennifer Tefft will be there on Saturday, November 11th. I almost hesitate to mention it, though, because I still haven’t figured out if I’ll be able to get there that night, and I’d hate to see the show sell out before I get my tickets.

Live Review: Fondatsiata and Shturcite at The Regent Theatre

Fondatsiata at The Regent Theatre

photo by Geoff Wilbur

Fondatsiata (The Foundation)

with Shturcite (The Crickets)

The Regent Theatre, Arlington, MA

October 13, 2017

Last night’s concert at The Regent Theatre in Arlington, promoted locally by Face Bulgaria and the Bulgarian American Cultural Center Madara, was a big-time rock ‘n roll event for the Boston area Bulgarian community. Bulgarian supergroup Fondatsiata (The Foundation) performed along with special guests Valdi Totev and Georgi Markov from Shturcite (The Crickets), a legendary Bulgarian rock group formed in 1967 and popular throughout the 1970s and 1980s, sometimes referred to as Bulgaria’s Beatles.

Fondatsiata at The Regent Theatre

photo by Geoff Wilbur

With spelling assistance from the Facebook event post, Fondatsiata is comprised of Kiril Marichkov (also from Shturcite), Ivan Lechev (from FCB), Donny Vekilov (from Donny and Momchil), Slavcho Nikolov (from B.T.R.), and Venko Poromanski (from “TE”).

I, of course, don’t know any of the songs, so I’ll be brief – no song titles or song-by-song rundown of the evening – but I’ll share plenty of photos instead. The crowd in attendance, however, knew most of the songs.

Fondatsiata at The Regent Theatre

photo by Geoff Wilbur

Fondatsiata opened the evening with several songs, showing the skills one might expect from a “supergroup.” Slavcho Nikolov unleashed some serious guitar wizardry; Venko Poromanski displayed top-notch drumming that included an engaging solo; Ivan Lechev rocked the axe but brought something especially dazzling to the mix when he switched to electric violin; Donny Vekilov brought energy and an impressive voice to the bunch; and bandleader/bassist Kiril Marichkov has clearly discovered the fountain of youth.

Fondatsiata at The Regent Theatre

photo by Geoff Wilbur

Valdi Totev joined the band for a few songs, and then he was joined by Georgi Markov for Shturcite’s portion of the performance. For those of us unfamiliar with the band, Shturcite’s last line-up change occurred in 1976 (thank you, Wikipedia), when Valdi joined the group, and the line-up remained unchanged until guitarist Petsi Gyuzelev’s passing in 2013. Ivan and Slavcho remained onstage to join Shturcite during their segment of the show.

Shturcite at The Regent Theatre

photo by Geoff Wilbur

Indeed, as much as the crowd loved the Fondatsiata performance, thinks kicked up a notch when Shturcite took the stage to perform several old favorites. Boston’s Bulgarian community was standing, singing, and dancing in the aisles, even more than during the first portion of Fondatsiata’s performance.

Shturcite at The Regent Theatre

photo by Geoff Wilbur

When Venko and Donny returned, the party atmosphere continued at a fever pitch, as Fondatsiata played several more songs.

Shturcite at The Regent Theatre

photo by Geoff Wilbur

Then came time for the encore. Three encores, to be exact. Before an appreciate crowd, the seven musicians of Fondatsiata and Shturcite regaled their fans with more favorite songs, and a two-plus hour concert experience came to a close.

Fondatsiata at The Regent Theatre

photo by Geoff Wilbur

Indeed, it would have helped if I had known even a couple of the songs so I could sing along. And, unlike new English-language performers, I wasn’t able to learn the songs partway through. But it was a pleasure to be there for such a high-energy performance. And even without the enthusiastic audience all around me, I’d’ve enjoyed the exceptional musicianship on display. I mean, I did enjoy it. Obviously.

Fondatsiata at The Regent Theatre

photo by Geoff Wilbur

Stylistically, the music was classic rock, largely rooted in ’60s, ’70s and ’80s rock styles (though more ’60s and ’70s), with hints of the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, and the Doors in places, and even an occasional nod to progressive rock, generally packaged in a middle-of-the-rock ‘n roll-road, mainstream style that could be played across a variety of pop and rock radio stations and easily reaches a broad demographic. Not unlike the Beatles and the Stones in that respect. This music plays directly to my personal musical tastes; indeed, if only I could understand enough to sing along, I’d probably have a few of the songs still stuck in my head today.

Fondatsiata and Shturcite at The Regent Theatre

photo by Geoff Wilbur

As I’ve said before, when a famous performer from any country is performing – as I experienced at Belgian star Milow’s show in New York last fall and during performances by Bulgarian stars here in the Boston area (like Theodosii Spassov or Vasko Krupkata) – it’s always worth seeing one of the best musicians from anywhere perform, even when you don’t know the songs. And, of course, if you’re a Bulgarian in America, you’ll be scanning the other five tour dates on the schedule below to see if you can make it to see Fondatsiata and Shturcite during their U.S. concerts this weekend or next…

Looking Ahead

Yes, the two-weekend U.S. tour continues, per the band’s website, tonight (October 14th) at the Botev Academy near Washington, DC and tomorrow, October 15th, at the Copernicus Center in Chicago. On Friday, October 20th, The Foundation will be at Coco Cabana outside Atlanta; on Saturday, October 21st in Tampa; and on Sunday, October 22nd at Stache Drinking Den and Coffee Bar in Fort Lauderdale. Be sure to check the website or Facebook page for additional details.

 

Album Review: The Stacking Stones Band – The Stacking Stones Band

The Stacking Stones Band

photo by Caitlin Cunningham Photography; photo courtesy of The Stacking Stones Band

The Backstory

After checking out The Stacking Stones Band’s music online a while back and identifying them as an outfit I wanted to see live, I caught (and reviewed) them at Arlington Porchfest this spring. It was during the run-up to that gig I discovered they were working on this album, and I’ve been looking forward to reviewing it ever since.

Album Review of The Stacking Stones Band: The Stacking Stones Band

Mid-tempo, smooth, easy-to-listen-to classic bluesy rock. The Stacking Stones Band is so deceptively precise it makes the music sound as if it almost comes too easy; the band’s music is instantly comfortably familiar. Whether background music during dinner, road-trip or commuting car music, or in a concert setting receiving full attention, this band’s music and performance style are the sort that can easily integrate into listeners’ lives. The seven songs on The Stacking Stones Band’s eponymous album are straightforward, original and exceptionally well-performed. The band does nothing earth-shattering, but they do it well. The Stacking Stones Band is a tight outfit performing well-constructed, straight-ahead bluesy rock.

The Stacking Stones Band album cover

image courtesy of The Stacking Stones Band

“Can’t Shake the Feeling” kicks the record off with a familiar rock ‘n roll rhythm, slowly building, adding crisp vocals first, then the rest of the band jangles its way into the party.

“Roses” was the first track to stand out to me from this collection. The verses flow along comfortably, so when the band features slightly greater energy in the chorus, a neat little guitar line, and slightly soaring vocals, though they’re still pretty relaxed, they stand out as a catchy hook. Add in some comfortable horn-work, and it’s a song you’ll remember.

“So Familiar” follows with a seventies soft rock almost Eagles-ish guitar line, a lying-back-in-a-hammock, peaceful, easy (see what I did there?) tempo, topped by a smoothly bluesy vocal, augmented by an ever-so-relaxed, perfectly-paced sax bridge. If this song doesn’t bring your blood pressure down while putting a smile on your face, nothing will.

“Lightning Rod” introduces some edgy funky blues to the mix.

The Stacking Stones Band

photo by Caitlin Cunningham Photography (www.caitlincunningham.com); photo courtesy of The Stacking Stones Band

It’s followed by what has become my favorite song on the disc, “Waste My Time.” A classic, low-fi blues-rock guitar line pulls the listener in as the song builds. ’60s rock-flavored, almost-psychedelic bridges and chorus offset the cheerfully energetic, guitar-powered verses. It’s a cheerful slow-build that eventually pays off in a late-song guitar solo before settling down just a bit. In all, it’s a fun journey driven by that hooky, crunchy guitar line.

“Las Cruces” carries a similar guitar signature, but it proceeds at a much more mellow pace. The song and its more specifically bluesy guitar riffs, matched well to slightly rougher vocals, give the impression of an open road in mirage-creating heat, wide-open like the picture on the album cover, though with some heat-driven blurriness.

The disc ends with another of my personal favorites, “You and Me.” This track brings the album to an end with a light, energetic cheerfulness. Jangly guitars, vocals with a hint of blues, and playful musical transitions that are somewhat Southern rock in nature. This is the one you’ll find yourself singing along with, rocking coolly, head bobbing with your shades on, to “you and me on the run.”

Looking Ahead

The Stacking Stones Band will be performing at Sally O’Brien’s in Somerville, MA on Saturday night, October 14th. Keep an eye on the “Upcoming Shows” tab of the band’s website and the band’s Facebook page for future live performance information.

Album Review: Ibby – Cross Your Heart

Ibby

photo by Dawn Kingston; photo courtesy of Ibby

Album Review of Ibby: Cross Your Heart

Ibby‘s Cross Your Heart is an exceptional sophomore release from this engaging, young, local Massachusetts singer/songwriter. I reviewed her hometown CD release party back in June, and I’ve been looking forward to finding time to give her album a proper review ever since.

I hear elements of pop/rock bands like Train in Ibby’s songwriting, bits of Taylor Swift in her lyrics, and a performance style that I’d begrudgingly label folk if I was forced to; begrudgingly because it’s varied and dynamic enough I could envision some of her songs achieving mainstream notoriety generally beyond the reach of the folk music sphere, so such a label is unnecessarily and unfairly limiting. Ibby’s voice is dynamic yet personal, almost always cheerful, even when the song topics aren’t and yet somehow not at odds with the song’s message, and this gives her serious pieces even more gravity. From song to song, she employs such variance in her strumming styles and tempos that the 14-song disc moves along comfortably, providing a variety of listening experiences to more easily maintain listener interest.

Ibby - Cross Your Heart

cover photo by Dawn Kingston; image courtesy of Ibby

For such a mellow-feeling album, Cross Your Heart has a lot of energy. Ibby rarely seems to pause; her songs have many lyrics, and she flows from one to the next, often using conjunctions, as if each song is just one long, run-on sentence. Hemingway would be proud. As a result, though, at the end of one of Ibby’s shows, and a bit at the end of this album, the listener is left happily out-of-breath and wondering why, given the seemingly calm nature of the music. It’s a joyful exhaustion, and something that may become one of her trademarks. Indeed, a memorable musician needs a few unique calling cards, and Ibby has enough of those to foretell a long, fruitful career.

“Burnouts” kicks the album off showcasing Ibby’s voice, so wonderfully appropriate for this disc, before picking up the tempo and growing into a bit more of an energetic number in spots. As an introduction to Ibby’s sound, it’s quite representative, and sometimes it’s the song that ends up stuck in my head. Indeed, at times several of the songs on this disc pop into my head, but – as you will, too – I have a few recurring favorites.

Ibby

photo by Dawn Kingston; photo courtesy of Ibby

“How Did I End Up Missing You” is one of my current favorites. And it showcases another of Ibby’s trademarks, an attention to interesting and precise lyrics. The uptempo cheerfulness of the music and the lyrics’ delivery belie the lyrics’ content. A favorite line, “Come home late/You were the wrong kind of busy/’Cause there’s lipstick on your collar/And I don’t wear any.” She delivers it convincingly, as if she’s maybe a decade older than she actually is, but also cheerfully, as if looking back and half-laughing at herself. I’m a sucker for cheerful delivery of not-so-happy lyrics, so this one hits a personal sweet spot.

“In the Sky” reminds me of Mark Wilkinson, both in song and strumming style. A particular song of his, in fact. And while I’m a little late to the Mark Wilkinson party, his legion of loyal fans will confirm that any comparison to him is an immense compliment. As you might guess, that makes “In the Sky” another of my personal favorites. Ibby’s vocals on this song are among her sweetest yet still exceptionally powerful. The intense guitar picking, breadth of emotion in the vocals, and the accompanying strings build the song’s intensity, as if a rubber band that keeps tightening without ever releasing before simply fading at the end. Impossible to ignore and delivered as if each lyric is significantly insightful.

Ibby at The Farmer's Daughter

photo by Geoff Wilbur

“Breathin'” is another favorite. It starts cheerfully and builds exuberantly, with the whole song shining like one great big smile. You know, but not in a too cheesy way.

Other notable songs include “Lightning Don’t Strike Twice,” a catchy blend of melody and lyrics that stands out as a likely first single. And “88 Keys,” which rises and falls powerfully, more drums-and-rhythm-driven than most of Ibby’s tunes, with a heavy aura not often found on this CD, but at the same time catchy and memorable. “Not About Rain” is among the darkest tracks on the album, brilliantly constructed and musically rather discomforting.

The cheerfully-delivered “My Dear” is another significant earworm in Ibby’s repertoire; its hooky strumming pattern ends on a cheerful note, setting the song’s mood. “You Bettered Me,” meanwhile, adds foreboding strings and a slightly different vocal delivery to create a powerful mood that is simultaneously warm and heavy; ultimately, it’s a cool sound that’s worth hearing.

And the disc closes in the only suitable way for an Ibby album, full of hope and cheer. “We Didn’t Lose” is another favorite of mine, a musically uplifting song with lyrical nuggets like “fate loves the fearless.” It’s not necessarily the most cheerful song once you dig into it, but there’s an easy feeling and happy contentedness that will leave the listener smiling.

Ibby at The Farmer's Daughter

photo by Geoff Wilbur

Upon multiple spins, Ibby’s Cross Your Heart reveals more and more musical and lyrical special moments, with the disc growing in my estimation from an already-pleased initial impression. There’s breadth and depth here that hints at a musician for whom this is just the beginning, one with the skills and instincts to continue to surprise and impress. This album still has plenty of mileage on it before I’m ready for her next one, but I’m also looking forward to hearing what else Ibby has in store for us.

I don’t see any upcoming events listed on Ibby’s Facebook page, but it’s worth keeping an eye on it and on her website. If you get a chance to see her perform live, it’s an inspiringly cheerful experience.

Live Review: The Folk Revival featuring Shawna Caspi and Outrageous Fortune at WICN

Shawna Caspi

Shawna Caspi; photo by Geoff Wilbur

The Folk Revival: “Outrageous Fortune & Friends”

WICN Performance Studio 50, Worcester, MA

September 28, 2017

The Backstory

On Wednesday morning, I was looking for some good live music to see that night. I found some local shows, including Shawna Caspi’s house concert hosted by notloB Music. After sampling her music and hearing her exquisite voice, I decided she was someone I really wanted to hear perform live, but I ended up having car trouble a few hours later – this was a recurring theme last week – so I couldn’t get out. Coincidentally, however, that very same day a member of Shawna’s team out to me about Thursday’s live in-studio performance at WICN 90.5 FM in Worcester. Shawna was slated for an hour-long set, a live performance on WICN 90.5 FM at the radio station’s studio, part of a four-hour show with a live studio audience. Now y’all may not know this, but I was a board operator at WKLQ in Grand Rapids one summer while studying broadcasting. I haven’t been back inside a radio studio in decades, so this sounded like a cool opportunity.

The Show: Folk Revival

As you know from the variety of music covered in the Blog, I’m not much of a folkie. I love the best music across all genres, but given the small percentage of my music that’s folk, it’s not surprising I wasn’t familiar with WICN’s Folk Revival (7:00 to 11:00 pm Thursday, over the air and streaming online) and host Nick Noble‘s decade-long run at its helm. In addition to his knowledge of the genre, Nick possesses an easygoing, friendly demeanor, skill at asking friendly questions that yield interesting responses, and a deep, silky voice that makes him the quintessential radio host for this type of show. Though I hadn’t known about him before, it was a pleasure to watch this maestro in action.

Shawna Caspi

Shawna Caspi; photo by Geoff Wilbur

I walked in right around 7:00, just in time for the show’s first performance, an hour-long set by Shawna Caspi. She was followed by Chris Welles. And Outrageous Fortune headlined the evening. Between featured performers, three local artists each performed a song. During these “breaks,” I often left the studio, so I only caught half of the songs and entirely missed both songs by the third of these three artists. Below, rather than running strictly chronologically, I’ll write about the three main performers first and then mention the performers whose songs populated the transitions. Well, the two I caught, anyway.

The Opener: Shawna Caspi

The Folk Revival was the tentpole gig of Toronto’s Shawna Caspi trio of Massachusetts performances. As I noted above, it’s Shawna’s voice (and delivery) – powerful, emotional, precise, as if from the ’60s-’70s folk era. My limited folk knowledge betrays me a bit here in that the only group that comes to mind is Peter, Paul, and Mary, but that’s not exactly who she reminds me of; stylistically, though, I’d place her as a musical contemporary. Of course, when any genre is performed by a musician of Shawna’s caliber, if you’re a music fan, it’s an opportunity missed if you don’t go out to hear her when she’s in town.

Fortunately, I didn’t miss this opportunity. Shawna kicked the evening off with one of my favorite songs from her new album, Forest Fire, “Never Enough.” It features a soaring vocal, and it just seemed to pop in the acoustics of the radio station’s studio. “Love in a Moving Van” followed, a guitar picker with a rolling tempo, a catchy, memorable tune with rich, warm vocals.

Shawna Caspi

Shawna Caspi; photo by Geoff Wilbur

“The Devil’s Rolling Pin” was a bit of a change of pace. You can actually hear the devil in the details of the rich, finger-picking strum and ever-so-slight haunting hint and cheerily foreboding tone in Shawna’s vocals. So haunting and slightly speakeasy-ish, it would probably fit on The Gentlemen’s Anti-Temperance League’s Masquerade, which I reviewed earlier this month. Very cool, showing the breadth of Shawna’s vocal capabilities.

Next, Shawna’s voice soared as she breathed new life into an old cover, “The Hobo’s Lullaby.” And she went very old-school folky with a little syncopated rhythm on “Not So Silent,” a catchy, fun, and powerful protest song with the singalong line, “We are louder; we are louder than them.”

“Anchor” refreshingly changed things up a little. Nice and airy, it felt free and bright like a summer day. A lazy summer day.

“Breakables” followed, a slow roller with a headturning phrase or two that really showcased Shawna’s voice. Those high, powerful, warm, crisp notes that only a few can hit, and she only even truly showcases that range occasionally, saving it to wow us on songs like this one.

Shawna brought her set to a close with “Oleaster,” a lyrical and vocal-driven tune from Forest Fire that utilizes clear, rising power in the vocals to help provide emphasis. It was a strong performance in a unique setting, a room whose acoustics were ideal for the crispness, precision, and warmth of Shawna Caspi’s performance style.

The Warm-Up Act: Chris Welles

Chris had a busy night. As one-third of Outrageous Fortune, he also served as his own warm-up band. Though he wasn’t alone. He, as guitarist, was joined by fellow Outrageous Fortune members Dan Dick on bass and, for some songs, Rod Thomas on backing vocals. So, really, the entire Outrageous Fortune trio all had a hand in opening for themselves. The third member of Chris’ trio (or fourth member of his quartet, depending on the song) was violinist Tomoko Iwamoto.

Chris Welles & band

Chris Welles & band; photo by Geoff Wilbur

As a trio, Chris and comrades opened with “Paradise or Hell,” showcasing a moderately haunting, weird sound. The second song, “Lullaby,” with Rod joining on backing vocals, was exceptionally impressive, showcasing a rich, warm, all-encompassing sound, perhaps my favorite of the set.

The performance continued with a jazzy, swingy cover of “I Can’t Give You Anything But Love,” and then a guitar and violin duet arrangement of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” that was light and very old movie soundtrack-esque. Indeed, that classic cinema music vibe continued with a rendition of Duke Ellington’s “It Don’t Mean a Thing If It Ain’t Got That Swing” featuring a very Bing Crosby-ish vocal amid a lively performance delivery.

Chris’ penultimate song, a fun and lively (that word again!) rendition of Louis Armstrong’s “Old Man Mose,” was another of my favorites from this set. And the set ended with Jelly Roll Morton’s “Whinin’ Boy,” again sporting something very black and white movie-ish about Chris’ vocals.

The Headliner: Outrageous Fortune

Outrageous Fortune

Outrageous Fortune; photo by Geoff Wilbur

I knew I wouldn’t be able to stay until 10:00 PM when the show ended, but Outrageous Fortune did get through an enthusiastically entertaining six songs before my 9:30 exit. I’m not sure I’ve ever covered a live show by a jug band before, but yes, this was as much fun as it sounds like, a half-dozen rousing numbers from this multi-talented trio.

Outrageous Fortune kicked things off with “I Got Mine,” the energetic opening track on the band’s new album, Delta Bound. They followed it with a vaudevillian rendition of Irving Berlin’s “My Walkin’ Stick” on which Rod Thomas played a walking stick-kazoo, of all things. It was an animated performance – a treat for the in-studio audience, at least – and a stroke of genius when we all realized the walking stick Rod had produced for the song was more than just a visual prop.

Outrageous Fortune

Outrageous Fortune; photo by Geoff Wilbur

Next up was a rendition of Robert Johnson’s “Come in My Kitchen” that had a Sesame Street-esque rhythm, kind of Big Bird-meets-Dukes of Hazzard. I particularly liked the patience in the vocals, as if waiting for the right lane to open at various times. Outrageous Fortune followed that with another Irving Berlin number, “Russian Lullaby,” deploying a relatively traditional line-up of guitar, bass, and harmonica, driven vocally by a nice, crooning lilt; and the harmonies here were truly something special. This led to the new album’s title track, Duke Ellington’s “Delta Blues,” at which point I had to exit, though the band and the radio show still had plenty of time remaining. I’m sure I don’t know what I missed; and I could have known but didn’t, as I forgot I had been at a radio show, so I didn’t think to turn the radio on while I drove home.

The Between-Band “Break” Performers

That was the end of my evening, a heck of a night. Of course, as I mentioned, there were performances during the breaks between the main artists. Each of three performers delivered a single song twice during the evening, a terrific idea for showcasing additional artists during the program. As noted earlier, I stepped out of the studio during part of each of these breaks, but I heard three of the six songs, as performed by two of the three artists.

Kevin Kvein

Kevin Kvein; photo by Geoff Wilbur

Kevin Kvein

I was in the room for both of Kevin Kvein’s songs. His first, “Age of Destruction,” was a mid-tempo strummer with a kind of open, echoey vocal style. His second song, currently untitled, was even more interesting. Rich, warm finger-picking guitar with a fragile vocal, not trembling though it seems like it should have been. Very cool and original.

Edwin Baculima

I only heard Edwin’s second song of the evening, his rendition of Robert Johnson’s “Kind Hearted Woman Blues,” a well-conceived slow-paced blues performance with an airy, almost Western feel.

Edwin Baculima

Edwin Baculima; photo by Geoff Wilbur

Looking Ahead

This radio studio live performance experience was very cool, and I look forward to keeping an eye on The Folk Revival’s Facebook group to see when there are future live shows that fit my schedule.

Shawna Caspi’s concert schedule, per the gigs page on her website, continues with a gig at Bear’s Place in Bloomington, IN on October 3rd; a house concert in Grosse Pointe, MI on October 6th; a show at the Unitarian Universality Community Church of Hendricks Country in Danville, IN on October 7th; and a Musical Hospitality Coffeehouse show at Boss Community Center in Kewanee, IL on October 8th. Following that, her calendar lists a series of shows October 11th-14th in British Columbia, an October 20th show at the Folk Alliance Region Midwest (FARM) Conference in Iowa City, IA, and then some shows back in Ontario. Check out Shawna’s website for additional details and more concert listings.

Outrageous Fortune’s next gig is Saturday, October 14th, 1:00-3:00 PM at Cafe L’Aroma in West Newton, MA. (You know how I love daytime shows; this’ll be great fun!) Keep an eye on the “shows” page of the band’s website for information about additional shows as they are added.

And, lest I forget, Tomoko Iwamoto is a member of the gypsy jazz outfit 440. Per the group’s Facebook events page, they’re performing at 11:00 AM today, October 1st, for Sunday brunch at the Trail’s End Cafe in Concord, MA. This is usually a second Sunday of the month gig, but it’s obviously the first Sunday this month. And, as always, check back at the Facebook page for upcoming show announcements as they’re added.

EP Review: Chris Ruediger – Secrets

Chris Ruediger

photo courtesy of Nina Pickell on behalf of Chris Ruediger

EP Review of Chris Ruediger: Secrets

You may recall my review of Off the Stage Music’s Behind the Songs event in June. That was my first exposure to Chris Ruediger‘s music; it also served as Chris’ EP release event for Secrets. At the time, my response to some of the attendees at the event was, “Oh, my god. That thing in his voice!” You weren’t there, so you aren’t able to nod in agreement like the people I was speaking with did, but there’s a tuneful warble in Chris’ vocals that’s unique, original, the sort of distinctively identifiable vocal edge that can take a singer to the next level.

Chris Ruediger - SecretsEnergetic EP-opener “One Way Ticket” is my pick as the song with the biggest hit potential among the five tracks on Secrets. Take Marc Roberge’s wobbly-edged vocal from O.A.R.’s “Shattered (Turn the Car Around)” or Darius Rucker’s tuneful warble from Hootie & the Blowfish’s “Only Wanna Be With You,” add it to an uptempo pop-rock hit like Train’s “Hey, Soul Sister,” and you have the essence of “One Way Ticket.” Chris, though, has his own characteristic voice, and this song has its own original energy and monster hook. I guarantee you’ll remember “One Way Ticket” after the first couple listens. Imagining myself a playlist-builder or radio programmer, I might pair this with a song like Counting Crows’ “Accidentally in Love.”

“Summertime Story” has its own warm, laid-back, wide open flavor. It would make a terrific follow-up single to a faster-paced opener. It is, indeed, an ideal summertime song. Roll the windows down and enjoy this tune with the wind in your hair. (If I had been able to turn this review around more quickly, while it was still summer, that comment would have been more relevant.)

Chris Ruediger

photo by Geoff Wilbur

The title track, “Secrets” has a smooth groove and always makes me think of a modern twist on The Young Rascals’ ’60s hit “Groovin’.” I like to think the two songs share a similar vibe, but it may just be a lyrical run early in the song that makes the connection for me. Still, “Secrets” has a distinct hotel lobby smooth jazz feeling to it. And you can hear Chris calmly smiling throughout this track. Yes, trust me, you can hear the toothy grin.

“Forgive Me” adds a bit of edge to the smooth groove of its preceding song but combined with the pop-radio vibe found in “One Way Ticket.” This sounds like the mid-tempo cousin of the disc-opener and would fit easily into the same subgenre box. Toward the end of the song, as well, there’s a little surf-recalling electric guitar run; as such, a music video for “Forgive Me” might be well-designed to end at sunset on a beach.

The final track, “Even If You Say No,” is an introspectively melancholy strummer. Considering the arc of the disc, this feels like a well-designed soft landing. There’s a touch of hopefulness in Chris’ voice, but not enough you can be entirely sure he believes it. It could just be that warble that makes Chris’ vocals sound sincere, but I’d say it isn’t. Indeed, this young man feels his lyrics deeply while he sings them, and he transfers that emotion to his audience.

Aside from that emotional connection, one of my other favorite things about this EP – and you’ve seen me write this before because it’s a common thread among recordings that impress me – is the musical variety in this collection, all while being cohesively, easily identifiably Chris Ruediger.

Looking Ahead

Keep an eye on the “Shows” tab of Chris’ website to see upcoming show dates. (There are currently none listed.) You can also keep tabs on Chris via Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Single Review: Gracie Day – “I Don’t Want Whiskey”

Gracie DaySingle Review of Gracie Day: “I Don’t Want Whiskey”

Hartford, CT-based Gracie Day has been popping up on my local radar a lot lately, so it’s a pleasure to review the first single (just released today, September 27th), “I Don’t Want Whiskey,” from her upcoming debut EP. Named 2017 New Act of the Year by the New England Music Awards, Gracie’s voice sounds pretty old-school country on this track. A quick examination of Gracie’s YouTube videos point to soul and folk influences playing prominent roles in her voice, as well, but if I were to name the genre at her vocal center, it would definitely be country.

Gracie Day - I Don't Want Whiskey

image courtesy of Nina Pickell on behalf of Gracie Day

On “I Don’t Want Whiskey,” a slight warble to Gracie’s voice and prominent slide guitar give off a good ol’ Opry-ready vibe. Though a full-band production with a rich, radio-friendly sound, the instrumentation is relatively sparse, focusing listeners more specifically on Gracie’s voice. Drums and strings drive a mid-to-late-song bridge that serves as a bit of a musical crescendo, but overall the voice-focused recording brings out the emotion of every voice-crack and lilt in Gracie’s voice. With “I Don’t Want Whiskey” serving as an advance introduction to Gracie’s forthcoming EP, it will be interesting to hear what else she has in store for us.

It also occurs to me that this is one of the few country songs I’ve ever heard about not wanting whiskey. Just saying.

Looking Ahead

Gracie is performing Friday, September 29th at Thunder Road in Somerville, MA. Her Facebook events page also lists a November 4th gig at starlite in Southbridge, MA. You can also check the “shows” page of Gracie’s website for additional information about upcoming shows as she adds them.