Album Review: Jimmy Lee Morris – Jumping Falling Flying

Backstory

As I’ve mentioned in previous recent reviews, I’m currently working through a years-old backlog of album reviews, as I’m again finding time to write semi-regularly. This spot in my review queue had been reserved for Jimmy Lee Morris‘ 2018 release Last of the Tall Ships, which I quite enjoyed getting to know. (Personal favorites from that release were “Buying Time” and “Something About You.”) But Jimmy continues recording, so instead I’ll be taking a look at the January 2020 release, Jumping Flying Falling. Technically, it’s not the newest Jimmy Lee Morris album. That distinction would fall to his July 6th release, Distant World, on which Jimmy re-imagines songs from his early-’00s band The Collaborators. Or perhaps Jimmy Lee Morris, a sort of greatest hits collection released on July 20th. But Jumping Falling Flying remains his most recent release of new songs, so here’s a review of this latest release of new originals from a talented singer-songwriter.

Album Review of Jimmy Lee Morris: Jumping Falling Flying

Jimmy Lee Morris - Jumping Falling Flying

image courtesy of Jimmy Lee Morris

The Jimmy Lee Morris albums I’ve heard since I first reviewed his music a mere four years ago have been hooky, mellow, and pop-folky. This disc infuses a bit more rock ‘n roll than the others. It’s all very much in-style for Jimmy, not a surprising departure; in fact, there was a bit of this on Last of the Tall Ships. Jumping Falling Flying is more just a nudge toward the rockin’ end of the Jimmy Lee Morris musical canvas, and it’s always fun when a favorite artist explores his various influences. Though it was released in January, Jumping Falling Flying is an ideal collection of laid-back yet energetic, song-driven, light summer rock music. And again I mention the hooks. As soft-touch as Jimmy Lee’s music is, his discs are chock-full of hooky earworms.

Album-opener, title track “Jumping Falling Flying,” gets things started in the right, energetic direction. Old-style rock organ in support of a steady rock rhythm and occasional sunny guitar lick that amply serves as a hook, supporting a light, airy melody and vocal. Indeed, the first of many new favorites on this recording.

“All These Things” again leans on the rock guitar as a bit of a distorted light-rock backdrop framing Jimmy Lee’s emotional, memorable, insightful vocals and lyrics.

Next up, it’s sock hop time. “Rock and Roll Party” is a throwback. The sort of catchy golden oldies-style rock song made modern, as you might expect from Huey Lewis. With an opening riff straight from the Happy Days jukebox or the Hill Valley High School “Enchantment Under the Sea” dance, you’ll be twisting, watusi-ing, and getting down while listening to classic axework on this fun third track. Tune in Saturday, via time machine, to hear Dick Clark introduce this one on American Bandstand.

Time to catch your breath? Nope. “Big Shot” is a country-rock saloon number with some surf-rock guitar. Jimmy Lee Morris’ songs are versatile, maintaining a signature vibe across a wide variety of arrangements. Four songs in, and it’s becoming apparent there’s no point in trying to predict what’s next on this fun ride. Sure, the turns are smooth and comfortable, sometimes subtle, but the highway isn’t straight.

Jimmy Lee Morris

photo courtesy of Jimmy Lee Morris

“White Witch and the Highwayman” and its harmonica introduce a lively, mid-tempo Americana flavor to the record. This recalls several previous Jimmy Lee Morris songs, painting pictures and telling tales with its lyrics, an exceptionally emotive spoken-word vocal delivery steering the ship. I’m wondering if “Wilderness Wood,” a title song from an old album, might hold up well under a similar musical arrangement. I’m betting it would. But this is “White Witch and the Highwayman,” a fun frolic at song number five.

Starting the back side of the album, “Love and Lies” hints at a light Grateful Dead vibe while pleasantly, wistfully reminiscing.

“À La Tienne” and “Look up to the Sky” mark a return a Jimmy Lee Morris style more akin to that we’ve reviewed frequently here at the Blog. Mellow, emotional light folk strummers with pop influence. Pleasant, comfortable, and enjoyable.

“Not Going Back” has a little of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers’ jangly rock vibe to it. A mischievous glint runs through the delivery and musical arrangement. The song moves; it’s what I refer to as a traveling song. Maybe something George Thorogood would play if in a really laid-back mood, or maybe a semi-mellow Jeff Healey track from the Road House soundtrack. But nah, it’s still quintessential Jimmy Lee Morris. Yet another style of arrangement but still part of a cohesive collection.

And, finally, “It Always Rains Around Here.” A bit of a Randy Newman vibe to this toe-tapper. A pleasant song that’ll put a smile on your face, and a terrific way to close the album satisfyingly.

I must say, as a complete package, Jumping Falling Flying is a particularly interesting Jimmy Lee Morris disc. It holds together well, and the album is a journey, traveling through a variety of rock, folk, and even country influences. If you’ve dug his past work, this collection is a must-have. And if you’ve yet to sample some Jimmy Lee Morris music, this album would be a mighty fine place to start.

Looking Ahead

Well, first of all, Jimmy Lee Morris has been active. Jumping Falling Flying was only released in January, and it’s already four-deep on Jimmy Lee’s Bandcamp page, after the aforementioned greatest hits album, the reimagination of his work with The Collaborators, and and actual old album from The Collaborators. It has been a busy release schedule for Jimmy Lee Morris this year, but yes, Jumping Flying Falling remains his most recent album of new originals.

Obviously, gigs are in short supply now, but when they’re happening again, you can find Jimmy Lee’s performances at his Facebook page.

Album Review: Amanda White – Kittens Give Zero Fucks

Amanda White

photo by Emilie Storrs; photo courtesy of Amanda White

Album Review of Amanda White: Kittens Give Zero Fucks

Old-school, New York punk rock energy meets at-times progressive rock arrangements, capped with a voice capable of “hitting oh-my-god!” notes. Amanda White‘s music feels simultaneously familiar and completely original. This opera singer with a punk rock soul produces music that’s potentially appealing to dyed-in-the-wool punks, expansive progressive rockers, and many of us in-between with the mix of power, punk, impossible vocals, and clever, catchy songwriting found on Kittens Give Zero Fucks.

“Last to Bite” ably opens the disc with a edgy, soaring vocals, crunchy guitarwork, and an unrelenting steady beat that marches forward with the purposefulness of a story-advancing rock-theater piece.

Amanda White - Kittens Give Zero Fucks album cover

album art by James Sullivan; image courtesy of Amanda White

The punk attitude comes to the forefront of the next track, “Fuckall Rockstar,” a devil-may-care, norms-be-damned rocker with only-in-punk lyrics like “got a rack like Michelle Obama,” “every virgin has been unchasted,” and “sir, your voice is a little scrapy, and your tone is a little rapey.” But it’s sooooo catchy, you’ll soon be singing along. Best not to listen to this song on your way to work if you’re prone to singing aloud the song stuck in your head, ’cause this tune will set up camp in there.

Speaking of earworms, the next song, Amanda’s energetic “Whackadoodle World” with its crunchy, hooky guitar line, is yet another of the several brain-burrowers on Kittens… Granted, the lyrics you’ll catch yourself singing along with, “Wha-ah-ah-ah-ah-ah-oh,” aren’t the most substantive in the song – nor are they NSFW, so there’s no worry there – but you will get to sing them often.

“Ur Wife” is a crunchy, catchy immorality tale, riffing with energy off a steady, juke joint bass line, that playfully utilizes Amanda’s vocal range, storytelling lyrical skills, and punk rock abandonment of social norms. A strong bet to be one of your favorite songs on the album, but probably not your wife’s favorite.

“Dark Art” is, as advertised, dark. Perhaps best described as a gothic progressive art rock track. Dark and brooding, it could easily be one of the extra songs in an extended-length remake of Phantom of the Opera.

Amanda White

photo by Kyle Schneider; photo courtesy of Amanda White

“Ruder” marks a return of the raucous kitten who cares not, and it leads into the closest thing you’ll find to a ballad on this album, “Someone’s Watching Over You.” The instrumentation at times hints at an uneasiness you might find in certain Rockwell and Sting tunes that shall go unnamed, but the melody is memorable, the vocals soar theatrically – the song is even a little Annie-ish if Annie were singing about punk or goth sunshine – and, in the end, this song is either comforting or disconcerting, depending on your mood at the time.

Next up is the catchiest, hookiest track on the disc – the obvious choice for a hit single – “Where the Hell is Amy?” An energetic raw, bar-crawl pop-rocker with a fun, naughty, trashy attitude, “Where the Hell is Amy?” is a party anthem for good times, spilled beer, and questionable decision-making.

“Adora” follows with a thick-as-molasses wall of heavy progressive rock sound that brings the rawk back. It’s a musical, emotional tour de force that brings the album nearly to its conclusion, followed by the equally heavy, progressive, thick “Fade.” Oh, but where “Adora” strikes a regretful, reminiscent tone, “Fade” skews far more ominous and dark. And yet, as prog as most of the song is, the chorus skews punk, tying the elements of Kittens… together nicely. This, I suppose, is the true magnum opus on the disc, clocking in at three seconds shy of eight minutes… and ending with the album’s final lyrics “Endlessly, endlessly die.” Well, that’s happy.

Amanda White

photo by Geoff Wilbur

Prog rock, rock opera, punk rock, some opera-style vocals and Broadway moments, all with a punk attitude, frequently with punk riffs, often with progressive arrangements. With her amazing voice, Amanda hits some big notes. There’s clear theatrical influence in some of the songs. Amanda knows how to write a hook… when she wants to. And she and her band have the chops to skew progressive more than a non-pure-prog band typically does. That’s why her sound is so unique – Kittens Give Zero Fucks is punk if you must categorize it, but if you chose the right two or three songs, you could convince a listener it’s a very odd prog rock album. So, whether punk is your go-to genre, or you’re a broad-based music fan who likes variety and enjoys talent wherever it lies, or if this is one of a handful of punk recordings – perhaps the only one – you dig because it’s a take on your progressive or operatic and theatrical musical tastes, Kittens… is unlike anything in your collection. You owe it to yourself to check it out.

Looking Ahead

Amanda doesn’t have any upcoming gigs scheduled, but keep an eye on the “Events” tab of her Facebook page for any future performances.

Album Review: iamCURBIE – Better Late Than Forever

iamCURBIE

photo by Maurice Thompson; photo courtesy of Curbie Ciamarra

Album Review of iamCURBIE: Better Late Than Forever

New Jersey-based Curbie Ciamarra, who performs and records his original music as iamCURBIE, is a talented rock ‘n roll singer-songwriter.

I love the instrumental opening to this album, the title track, “Better Late Than Forever,” a rich music bed with a Southern rock-ish, singer-songwritery soft guitar wail. It sets the stage for what is not your ordinary soft-to-mid-tempo rock singer-songwriter fare. Very quickly you’ll realize this album is a softer-edged music from a rocker with a textured, emotional voice.

iamCURBIE - Better Late Than Forever album cover

image courtesy of Curbie Ciamarra

Drawing from a variety of old-school softer-rock sources, and techniques that work very well live – a hand-clap bit, for example, and a well placed stop-start pause – the second song though the first with vocals, “Ego to Feed,” is a quick favorite. And it flows smoothly into “Into the Shade,” which adeptly ups the tempo. “Into the Shade” contains vocal hooks and a forward-driving acoustic-electric guitar rhythmic motor that carry Curbie’s emotional vocals exceptionally well.

“Day Dreams” stands out as a softer track mid-album, with a soft, almost lullaby-ish music bed blending well with Curbie’s impassioned vocals.

If you’re looking for an opening hook that’ll grab radio listeners from the start, try the first strums of “Worth It.” It’s a moderately uptempo number that’ll be have you swaying in your seat. I’m also a fan of the way the energy in this tune builds; it’s a fun payoff.

“Keep Moving” is a poignant, emotional number that will connect immediately with anyone with families, particularly those who are away from their families more than they’d like. Among the songs on Better Late Than Forever, this is certain to be the one that connects most strongly with some listeners, with one caveat. This sentiment is actually largely duplicated but with a different mood on the catchy, uptempo, fun “159” later in the album – those with kids who prefer the sentiment without the hint of anguish found in “Keep Moving” might actually prefer “159.”

iamCURBIE

photo by Maurice Thompson; photo courtesy of Curbie Ciamarra

The biggest singalong line – at least for bar gigs – is probably in the catchy “Spirits (Maggie)”: I’m just here for the beer.

I’ll skip down and close with the album-closer, “Harley’s Edge III F.I.P.” As if proving there are more weapons in his arsenal, this emotional, powerful song includes a guitar sound not previously used on this disc. It’s all about emotion on Better Late Than Forever, and this well-produced number closes the disc in exactly that manner.

Considering the entirety of the album, each of the songs on Better Late Than Forever has a unique appeal, and any one of them may end up a personal favorite. The collection is well-written, emotionally performed, effectively produced. A worthy addition to one’s album collection.

Moreover, the songs on this record would play well in acoustic coffeehouses or bigger rock venues with full band support. Yeah, Curbie’s a songwriter and a performer. And this disc is likely to appeal to multiple audiences, including rockers who appreciate a softer approach from time to time, pop-rockers who occasionally like some edge in their music, and folky singer-songwriter fans who can appreciate richer arrangements to songs they’d like enjoy stripped-down, as well. Or, really, anyone whose idea of good music begins with a well-written and adeptly-performed song.

Looking Ahead

You can keep up-to-date with iamCURBIE’s performances at the “Events” tab of his Facebook page. It currently lists one upcoming show, on Thursday, July 9th, at Martell’s Waters Edge in Bayville, NJ. Curbie is also one-third of Curbie and the Sidewalkers, in which he’s joined by Ben Weinberg and Steve Carr. There are currently no upcoming gigs listed on the trio’s Facebook “Events” tab.

Album Availability

The Bandcamp page for the album (which I hotlinked to at the top of the review) appears to only offer digital downloads, but the CD is available at Amazon (and, I presume, at Curbie’s shows). You can also download MP3s at Amazon, but the price is lower at Bandcamp.

Album Review: Kate Eppers – The Wishing Well

Kate Eppers

photo by Lee Mac; photo courtesy of Kate Eppers

Album Review of Kate Eppers: The Wishing Well

Kate Eppers‘ captivating vocals immediately bring to mind those of the sort of musical theater performer with the potential to cross over to mainstream popularity. Why musical theater? It’s a combination of emotive, room-filling vocals and delivery. And these songs are tailor-made to package that big, attention-grabbing voice into song-shaped packages. Plus, of course, the reprise at the end suggests a theatrical flair. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Kate Eppers - The Wishing Well

cover photo by Jeremy Dorson Photography; cover image courtesy of Kate Eppers

Beginning to end, The Wishing Well is intense. It grabs the listener’s attention from the very first note, and throughout the music and vocals, from one song to the next, sustains an urgency that’s uniquely compelling.

“Prove That You’re Real” kicks things off with a music-box melody, joined quickly by Kate’s crystal clear vocal, simultaneously wispy and full of power, matched in the latter half by a crunchy, distant guitar line, as Kate’s voice increases in prominence.

“Silence (I Will Wait)” picks up melodically where “Prove…” leaves off. It continues that crisp, angelic vocal style and offers a terrific lead-in to the thumping rhythmic guitar-and-drum opening of “For Me There’s Only You.” In fact, the mix of sweetness and urgency in “For Me There’s Only You” crashes like rockin’ a series of dance pop diva-esque waves, as it’s an epic love song that suggests lyrically and subtly ominously musically that all isn’t quite right. As a result, this steady, beat-driven tune with its penetrative vocal insistence is likely my favorite on the album.

Kate Eppers

photo by Jenglish Photography; photo courtesy of Kate Eppers

Next, Kate takes a soaring vocal approach to troubled emotions in demon-fighting “Burn This City to the Ground.” The music supporting her vocal contributes to the ominous feel, though the soft ending suggests either resolution or resignation, depending on the listener’s state of mind at the time.

“Follow Me” is uplifting and brings hopefulness back to the collection, and the song’s official video is a great complement to the music, offering a fantasy-world, mystical quest-driven love story that provides imagery well-befitting the song.

Next up is perhaps my other favorite in the collection, the title track, “The Wishing Well.” You can feel the emotions well up throughout the song, as vocals and lyrics suggest a wishful fantasy ending with a less-than-satisfying return to reality. The song itself? Utterly satisfying for the listener as a complete journey led by a magical voice.

Kate Eppers with Brian Murphy (One Time Mountain)

photo by Lee Mac; photo courtesy of Kate Eppers

You recall I mentioned a theatrical closing? Yes, “Medley of the Melodies” is a six minute instrumental recollection of the six songs in the collection, wrapping up The Wishing Well‘s package with a musical bow.

Kate’s voice is big, sweet, and ready for the stage. I’m guessing Broadway would be an ideal landing spot for her. But her voice is equally suited to a big, crisp pop album, versatile but distinct, able to capture a variety of moods, notably the roarin’ big ones but also the softer, subtler ones more easily conveyed via album than musical theater. The Wishing Well is a journey worth taking, and Kate Eppers’ voice and talent is a discovery you’ll welcome.

What’s Next?

Since The Wishing Well was recorded (while it sat in my review queue), Kate released another single. “The Hero of Our Time (You Are Mine)” hit online music outlets last summer.

Kate doesn’t have any live gigs on her calendar right now. But who does? As live music returns to our lives, though, you’ll be able to find her upcoming performances listed online at the “Tour” page of her website and the “Events” tab of her Facebook page.

 

Album Review: Shawna Caspi – Forest Fire

Shawna Caspi

photo by Roni Hoffman; photo courtesy of Shawna Caspi

The Backstory

I first discovered Shawna Caspi‘s music quite by accident, just in time to catch a live performance in the fall of 2017. This fortuitous discovery and review of an exceptional live performance in a unique setting was, of course, chronicled in a review. Fast-forward to today, when I’m just now getting a chance to review an CD that has graced my car stereo for more than two years. So, let’s jump in, shall we?

Album Review of Shawna Caspi: Forest Fire

Shawna Caspi - Forest Fire

image courtesy of Shawna Caspi

Shawna can be described, most succinctly, as a folk singer. Of course, that’s an incomplete description. There’s a lot of picky, plucky, upbeat guitar, a sweet, surprisingly powerful voice, a matter-of-fact, old-school folky delivery, and well-written songs that paint a picture and tell a story. But yeah, she’s exactly the sort of artist you’d expect to find headlining a folk festival. And yikes, she bursts with talent; you’d be excited to spot Shawna’s name on the marquee as any event’s headliner.

Forest Fire opens with “Love in a Moving Van,” exactly with one of those plucky guitar rhythms you’d expect. Cheerful, vagabondish… this CD has you smiling right out of the gate. She follows it with the engaging story-song “Devil’s Rolling Pin,” a tune that delivers a rich music bed and emotive vocals, driven by rolling rhythmic musical motor. One of my faves from day one, from the first time I heard it delivered live during her WICN studio performance. (Yes, the one I wrote about.)

Shawna Caspi

photo by Ian Sinclair; photo courtesy of Shawna Caspi

A mood change is next, to the dark, somewhat haunting version of Lynn Miles’ “Brave Parade.” Slow, brooding, quietly defiant, and full of inner strength. All this, of course, established by the quiet guitar plucking and serious, sweetly strong vocal line, hinting at that intersection between traditional country-folk and modern singer-songwriter vocals. “Never Enough” follows with lyrics that reside in the same neighborhood as “Brave Parade” but with a more uptempo, determined focus and a hint of a haunting Chris Isaak-esque edge striking a peppy, uncomfortable balance.

“Oleaster,” next, is a catchy, memorable, smoothly flowing song that strikes a hopeful tone, leading up to “Numbers Game,” with its ominous overtone. Then the cheery “Take This Mountain,” a very folky tribute to finding homespun happiness as a metaphor for navigating life.

Next up, Shawna adds her signature to the swaying country music dancehall standard “Tennessee Waltz.” Her sweet, precise vocal phrasing brands Shawna’s rendition of this oft-recorded classic her own.

Shawna Caspi

photo by Geoff Wilbur

Following is “The Love I Know,” a soft, flowing number without a happy ending, a song whose tones and tune are a fitting album-ender.

Of course, if Shawna’s dulcet tones on “The Love I Know” do send you off to dreamland, you’ll be awakened by “My Baby Can Fix a Bike,” if you’re lucky enough to have a disc that contains this bonus track. With all the angst and inner turmoil elsewhere on this album, it provides a nice, cheerful, lighthearted “alternate ending.”

Beginning to end, this CD has been a joy to have in my car, as one of the handful of discs rotating through my CD player, accompanying me on my commutes and adventures for far too long, though not, of course, during the last three months. An elite talent on the folk scene, Shawna Caspi is someone you absolutely should check out, if you aren’t already familiar with her voice and music.

Looking Ahead

Shawna is working on her next disc, and I’m looking forward to it.

Also, you can keep an eye on Shawna’s performance schedule at the “Gigs” page of her website. Tonight, Monday, June 8th, at 8:00 PM EDT, she performs online on a Club Passim Live stream, her COVID-cancelled concert here at Boston’s iconic Club Passim restructured as a more socially distanced live stream. She has two other online shows currently on the calendar. On Monday, June 22nd, at 7:00 PM EDT, she’ll perform at the Philadelphia Folksong Society’s Digital Concert Venue. And on Sunday, July 12th, at 7:00 PM EDT, Shauna will be performing her scheduled Flying Cat House Concerts showed, originally scheduled for that Indianapolis venue, online via Facebook live stream. Details and links for all of these online shows are on the gigs page at her website.

Album Review: Danielle M and the Glory Junkies – All My Heroes Are Ghosts

Danielle M and the Glory Junkies

photo by Caroline Alden; photo courtesy of Danielle Miraglia

Album Review of Danielle M and the Glory Junkies: All My Heroes Are Ghosts

I have referred to Danielle Miraglia’s musical style as blues-rock (when electric) or blues-folk (when acoustic), but it’s always very clearly, identifiably Danielle Miraglia. She’s one of the few Boston-area musicians who play as often as she wants without diminishing her draw. You’ve seen her reviewed frequently in this Blog, including her last album, Glory Junkies, and last summer’s annual Front Street Concerts gig (an annual concert that always sells out early).

Stylistically, there are pieces of classic rock, old-school blues, modern song-driven pop-rock, and a several additional influences in Danielle’s music. Her live covers generally include Janis Joplin, the Rolling Stones, and Prince, and for a while her standard concert-closer was a raucous rendition of Tom Waits’ “2:19.” Piece those together, add a vocal delivery style that combines power, grit, and smirk, and sprinkle in some of the Boston area’s marquee musicians (Danielle, herself, included), and an album like All My Heroes Are Ghosts is exactly what you’d expect. And while Danielle draws tremendously in metro Boston, and she fills rooms up and down the east coast on occasional tours, the one thing that’s hard to grasp is why this original, old-school, genre-crossing talent still hasn’t found a large, national audience. The cool thing about the blues, though, is that it’s a genre that will give her credit for “time served,” especially as she builds an impressive back catalog.

Danielle M and the Glory Junkies - All My Heroes Are Ghosts

image courtesy of Danielle Miraglia

All My Heroes Are Ghosts, surprisingly, is the first disc Danielle has recorded using a band name rather than as a solo artist. With an awesome band name referencing the title of the previous album, Danielle M and the Glory Junkies have performed together for quite a while, but this time the band went in as a unit and has its full name memorialized on the album cover. And, why not individually by name, in this review, as well. One of Boston’s best collections of versatile, talented musicians, top to bottom: Danielle Miraglia (guitar, vocals), Laurence Scudder (viola, vocals). Erik White (guitar, vocals), Jim Larkin (bass), and Chris Anzalone (drums). And, with the band’s increased visibility, the Danielle M and the Glory Junkies have been selected for Boston Music Award nominations in the “Blues Artist of the Year” category each of the last two years.

Now, of course, back to the disc. The album saunters into its first cut, the title track, “All My Heroes Are Ghosts,” a nostalgic track whose hits just the right laid-back rockin’ ‘n rollin’ sentimental tone.

Not one to let sentimentality sit there unprovoked, Danielle and gang follow with the rollicking “All On Fire.”

Danielle Miraglia & the Glory Junkies

photo by Geoff Wilbur

Danielle continues down the social commentary path with two tracks attacking a similar topic with different tempos. First, the toe-tapping, groovy “Monster,” with instrumental lines dancing in and out around a pulsing, driving, slow bluesy rhythm. Then rocking wailer “Everybody’s Wrong” cranks things up, though not immediately – this tune simmers slowly before even the most attentive frog realizes its boiling. It never quite reaches a rolling boil, but it’s a fun ride.

Another favorite – that makes five out of five “favorites” so far, but who’s counting? – follows with “Don’t Pray for Me,” where Danielle’s rich, gravelly vocals really drive the songs slow, steady wailing delivery.

Danielle M and the Glory Junkies

photo by Neale Eckstein; photo courtesy of Danielle Miraglia

I won’t swing song-by-song through the disc’s back nine. Er, five. But I should call out “Rock Star,” which has a Prince meets Ziggy Stardust vibe, as the band plucks its way through in support of Danielle’s plucky, funky vocals; plus it’s a song you’ll catch yourself singing whenever you see the phrase “rock star” once you’ve heard it. Oh, and “Aim Low,” just because I love the clever, hilarious lyrics delivered with Danielle’s trademark mischievous half-smile/half-snark, beloved by fans and reserved for songs like this, on what could easily have been Homer Simpsons’ personal theme song. Oh, geez, and of course her delivery is spot on during the band’s rendition of Janis Joplin’s “What Good Can Drinkin Do,” during which the bands rhythmic musical tour de force backs Danielle’s bluesy rockin’, growling blues (can I say “bluesy” again?) vocal. OK, that’s three of the last five mentioned. I’m sure Danielle could write a great song about how badly I achieved my mission of skimming the back five.

But hey, Danielle Miraglia’s albums just keep getting better. Even though it doesn’t seem possible. I’m almost afraid of what comes next.

Danielle M and the Glory Junkies at the Spire Center

photo by Denise Maccaferri; photo courtesy of Danielle Miraglia

Looking Ahead

What comes next for Danielle Miraglia is a new record. She’s currently working on a solo acoustic folk/blues album, whose release has been bumped back from this spring to fall 2020 by the less-than-conducive-to-tour-support conditions we’re going through right now. That as-yet-unnamed album is available for pre-order here, and it will feature a combination of acoustic folk/blues covers and acoustic versions of DMiraglia originals. Also, until it’s possible to begin touring again, Danielle performs occasional live streaming concerts. The most recent one was May 15th, but you can stay current here on this social distancing-based page on her website or, likely, on the events tab of her Facebook page.

As for live performances, the “Shows” tab on Danielle’s website still lists a May 28 Bob Dylan birthday tribute event in Portland, ME, but a clickthrough to get tickets shows a May 19, 2021 performance date, and the St. Lawrence Arts venue calendar doesn’t list the show, so I’d assume that gig is likely going to be a casualty of COVID-19. The other date listed on Danielle’s “Shows” tab is a Friday, October 9th show at the Second Friday Coffeehouse in Belmont, MA. Let’s hope that happens. It looks like the event site doesn’t currently have a show listing, since it’s closed until the situation changes. Danielle’s Facebook page also lists shows currently scheduled for December 12, 2020 and April 17, 2021. She’s a road warrior, so I’m sure she’ll be gigging everywhere when it’s safe to perform live again. In the meantime, though, be sure to check out this album, past discs, her upcoming release, and, of course, Danielle’s live streams.

Looking ahead for the Blog? Hopefully, this will be the first of an increasing cadence of reviews again. I began writing this review back in November 2018, and I just found time to finish it this past week. It’s the first album review I wrote personally that I’ve published since November 2018, when my review of Persona’s Metamorphosis hit the blog. (I’ve managed a few – but not many – live reviews since.) I currently have countless reviews still “in the queue” – exceptional recordings from some of my favorite, talented artists – so assuming I’m able to write regularly again now, look for more long-overdue reviews of albums you’re going to enjoy discovering in the coming weeks and months. But this review is a good place to start. Danielle M and the Glory Junkies’ All My Heroes Are Ghosts, if it doesn’t already grace your collection, will quickly become a rockin’ blues favorite.

Live Review: 3nd Annual Local CountryFest

Mychael David at Local CountryFest

Mychael David; photo by Geoff Wilbur

3rd Annual Local CountryFest

Indian Ranch, Webster, MA

September 29, 2019

This popular annual event draws more fans every year while presenting the very best local country music. Organized and promoted, as always, by Octo Rock Cinema Productions, this year’s 3rd Annual Local CountryFest lived up to the high expectations attendees now have of it.

I’ve reviewed this event every year so far (see my reviews of 2017’s 1st annual and 2018’s 2nd annual), and I look forward to next year’s year number four, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves. This year, Backyard Swagger performed on the Corral Stage as the gates opened. Then the performances moved to the main stage, featuring short sets by Meghan Lynch, Ayla Brown and Rob Bellamy, Taylor O’Connor, Tim Buono, and Matt York and full-length, full-band sets by Lyssa Coulter, the Jake Ash Band, Mychael David, the Darren Bessette Band, Annie Brobst, and No Shoes Nation.

Magician Steve Charette at Local CountryFest

Steve Charette; photo by Geoff Wilbur

But first I’d like to talk about the venue. Indian Ranch is very cool. It’s big enough for a big stage show but small enough that every seat feels intimate, definitely compared to most other decent-sized outdoor concert locations. The venue is also home to The Indian Princess, a riverboat that gives tours of the lake, a campground, the very nice Samuel Slater’s Restaurant, and a banquet hall/function facility. Yes, I’ve only ever attended concerts at the amphitheater, but the entire grounds seem well worthy of future visits.

With so many artists performing, I’ll keep each review quick, drop in a band photo, and move on to the next, especially since the posting of this review has been so delayed that I have to lean almost strictly upon my notes. Hopefully it’ll be enough to give you a sense of each band’s performance.

I arrived a little late, but I did catch the last couple of songs of Backyard Swagger’s Corral Stage set. Ayla Brown and Rob Bellamy then performed the national anthem on the main stage before yielding the stage to Lyssa Coulter’s full band performance.

And on the grounds, attendees were treated to the magic stylings of Steve Charette, who was as impressive this year as he had been when I first saw him perform during the 1st Annual Local CountryFest.

Backyard Swagger at Local CountryFest

Backyard Swagger; photo by Geoff Wilbur

Backyard Swagger

Before the national anthem, Backyard Swagger kicked off the day’s music with a performance at the Corral Stage as fans filed in. Their fun rendition of “Man I Feel Like a Woman” was being performed as I approached. The group also delivered a lively rendition of “Little White Church” with kick and punch, a version of Maren Morris’ “Rich” sporting a fun, funky rhythm, and a performance of “The Devil Went Down to Georgia” that showcased Miriam Smith’s blistering fiddlework. Backyard Swagger closed its set with “Any Man of Mine,” a tune ideal for Diane Ferullo’s voice, driven home by the band’s booming rhythm section.

Lyssa Coulter at Local CountryFest

Lyssa Coulter; photo by Geoff Wilbur

Lyssa Coulter

After Ayla and Rob delivered “The Star-Spangled Banner” to kick things off on the main stage, the Lyssa Coulter Band launched into its set. Lyssa Coulter has been a mainstay at Local CountryFest, moving up the performer food chain each year. This year, she finally landed a main stage, full-band, full-set performance, and she not only owned the stage this year with her full-band, eight-song, main-stage performance, but she delivered with some serious charisma and vocal talent, leaving no doubt that she’s a bona fide front-line New England country act.

Lyssa kicked things off with “Whiskey in the Twilight,” a tune that showcases her best vocal qualities, those that are most identifiable, a great opening song choice. Lyssa’s sensitive vocal quaver worked well on the heartfelt “Maybe Tonight.” Her “Should’ve Said No” cover was energetic. “By Myself” sported an emotional, moving wail. Indeed, Lyssa’s originals are always the songs best-suited to her voice, as if they’ve been written with her unique strengths in mind.

And, speaking of originals that utilize Lyssa’s vocal skills, she closed the set with “Curisin’,” her summer single. This is one of those upbeat, catchy, teen-movie-friendly numbers. And this one, in particular, has a catchy, playful guitar line. Lyssa has established herself as a marquee local talent in her lane. I really dug this set.

Meghan Lynch at Local CountryFest

Meghan Lynch; photo by Geoff Wilbur

Meghan Lynch

Pop-country singer Meghan Lynch – from Boston but now based in Nashville – followed with an acoustic set. I wish my notes were more detailed, but the short set was fun. She kicked things off with “Wild Guess,” sung with a heartfelt vibe. She followed it with original “My Greatest Mistakes.” Meghan closed her set with an energetic, bubblegum, pop-country, fun number “Party Girl.” The quick four-song set was over too quickly. Here’s hoping Meghan will be back again next year.

The Jake Ash Band at Local CountryFest

The Jake Ash Band; photo by Geoff Wilbur

The Jake Ash Band

I was psyched for this. I’ve been following The Jake Ash Band for a while, and this was my first chance to catch them live. They did not disappoint. They kicked off with “Five Star Dive Bar,” complete with driving guitar, great storytelling, and reminiscing vocals. Catchy, this song sounds like it’ll grow on you. Next up, on “Easy on the Eyes (Hard on the Heart),” I really liked the way the piano line prominently drove this song. My notes even tripled use of this word for this song: catchy, catchy, catchy. “Sweet Babies” had a raucous energy with a great use of vocal pause-and-punch. The band’s October 4th release, “Tequila Season,” followed. Then catchy, hooky, fun, guitar-crunching “Wedding Ring Money.”

After a powerful, edgy, bluesy-rocking country numbers (whose title I didn’t glean), the JAB launched into “Devil Went Down to Georgia” and “Mountain Music” before closing with original “25 Again,” a powerful song, “on 11” from beginning to end, followed by a frantic close. It’s obvious why it’s a fan favorite, a terrific way to close a set, leaving the crowd buzzing.

Ayla Brown and Rob Bellamy at Local CountryFest

Ayla Brown and Rob Bellamy; photo by Geoff Wilbur

Ayla Brown and Rob Bellamy

The next acoustic set featured this exceptionally well-matched duo. On set-opener “Always Have a Home,” as throughout the set, Rob’s deep textured voice was complemented by Ayla’s softer, sweeter tone. The “white space” was as musically important as the guitar, at least in this acoustic arrangement. Next up was a cover of A Star is Born‘s “Shallow.” On this powerful ballad, Rob’s rich voice kicked things off, followed by Ayla’s warm, also-rich voice. “Built That Way” was about the purest country song there is, about praying, patriotism, and working hard; it was delivered powerfully and sincerely, as they have the requisite vocal chops for this song to hit home the way it was intended. Ayla and Rob closed their set with “The Honeymoon Phase,” a fun, clever, light-yet-lyrically-interesting, catchy tune.

Mychael David at Local CountryFest

Mychael David; photo by Geoff Wilbur

Mychael David

The marquee old-school country voice of Central Massachusetts for quite some time, a singer with an impressive national pedigree, Mychael David took the stage next for a long set with his full band. Sporting a deep, powerful, timeless country voice and endless talent and surrounded by some of the region’s best musicians, a Mychael David full-band concert event is always a treat.

The band opened with “Even the Man in the Moon is Crying,” followed by “Folsom Prison Blues” – so much axe talent in the band, they totally rocked this! In fact, it’s such a great fit, the band included “Folsom Prison Blues” on Mychael’s most recent album, Heroes & Honkytonks.

Next up was “Smoke and Ash.” As here, Mychael’s old-school, rich country voice can carry a set. Always. Anywhere. But Howie Swett’s wailing riffs put this song over the top.

After a cover of “Country Roads” that nailed that pluckin’ country energy, the band rolled on to “Some Gave All.” This ballad “to veterans and to those who never made it back” is always a misty moment during a Michael David set. This swaying, sad ballad was punctuated by Mychael walking through the crowd shaking as many veterans’ hands as possible. A true, sincere, patriotic mid-set moment.

After uptempo “That Ain’t My Truck,” the band closed its set with “Goodbye is Still Goodbye,” a country rocker driven by an energetic guitar line and subtle hooks, complementing Mychael’s rich vocals.

Taylor O'Connor at Local CountryFest

Taylor O’Connor; photo by Geoff Wilbur

Taylor O’Connor

Taylor O’Connor’s short acoustic set was next. Showcasing serious twang for a Grafton girl, Taylor delivered a solid cover of Luke Combs’ “When It Rains It Pours,” featuring vocal tempo and pace changes. Next up was “Reset Button,” an original that highlighted Taylor’s nice, tuneful voice. Finally, Taylor’s performance of “Wine Again” impressed; there was a bit of an emotional warble on this song that really delivered the goods.

Darren Bessette Band at Local CountryFest

Darren Bessette Band; photo by Geoff Wilbur

Darren Bessette Band

The Darren Bessette Band followed, opening with “It’s a Long Way Down,” a song that prompted me to note “rockin’ country, tight band, great vox.” That about sums it up for this crowd-pleasing assemblage of consummate country music pros.

I was particularly impressed by original “Tail Lights,” an old-school country music hall type of song. It sported a steady rhythm, but the guitar line was active, giving the soundbed character to complement Darren’s expressive vocals.

Cover songs ranged from Dolly Parton’s “Jolene” to Eddie Rabbitt’s “Driving My Life Away,” delivered flawless and timeless. And the set closed with “I Love This Life.” A great set of crowd favorites, showcasing this talented band.

Tim Buono at Local CountryFest

Tim Buono; photo by Geoff Wilbur

Tim Buono

Tim Buono’s short set was next. He opened with a laid-back country song (whose title I missed). My favorite song of Tim’s set was his original “Anyway,” with soulful emotion dripping from every syllable – an absolute must-hear! And he closed his set with a cover of Brad Paisley’s “Little Moments,” again featuring emotional vocals, almost seeming like they the words themselves were about to crack. Whew!

Annie Brobst Band at Local CountryFest

Annie Brobst Band; photo by Geoff Wilbur

Annie Brobst

The Annie Brobst Band was next. As has been the case every time I’ve seen this world-class outfit, they owned the big stage, delivering a big concert performance. They kicked things off with energy via “You Either Love Me Or You Don’t.” Next up: “Still Water,” a song whose dancing rhythm guitar live added character and motion to this catchy, mid-range number. Oh, and the cool vocal bridge added even more character.

After “Change of Heart,” Annie and band went whiskey – original “Whiskey Colors,” a dynamic personal favorite delivered with a catchy use of stop-starts and a funky bass bridge and “Whiskey Glass,” which featured crowd engagement. Then went wine. New original “Red Wine On My Mind” sounds like a real crowd-pleaser, a singalong-able tune that builds to power and even features a little guitar shredding. Well done.

Then, after “Love You More,” Annie delivered “Ghost,” a smooth, rich, full song to close the set.

Matt York at Local CountryFest

Matt York; photo by Geoff Wilbur

Matt York

The last acoustic mini-set of the day belonged to Matt York. He opened with an energetic, fast-strumming, country story-song growler, then a strummer with a deep growl. He closed with a cover of Billy Joe Shaver’s “Fit to Kill and Going Out in Style,” delivered engagingly with that all-knowing, smirky vocal edge. Exceptionally well done.

No Shoes Nation at Local CountryFest

No Shoes Nation; photo by Geoff Wilbur

No Shoes Nation

Local CountryFest closed with a set from No Shoes Nation, the Kenny Chesney tribute band that’s a huge local draw with its tight musicianship and near-flawless delivery of Chesney’s hits.

The band opened with “Reality” and closed with “Beer in Mexico.” Highlights in between included “Everything’s Gonna Be Alright,” which had the crowd swaying, and “Boston,” an obvious local favorite. Also, my personal favorite Kenny Chesney tune, “She Thinks My Tractor’s Sexy.” Across a set that spanned more than a dozen songs, No Shoes Nation wrapped up a day of great local country music with an energetic, funny, very true-to-Chesney set.

No Shoes Nation at Local CountryFest

No Shoes Nation; photo by Geoff Wilbur

I’m already looking forward to next year’s Local CountryFest – this concert has quickly become a must-attend annual event on the local music calendar.

Live Review: Danielle Miraglia at Front Street Concerts

Danielle Miraglia at Front Street Concerts

photo by Geoff Wilbur

Danielle Miraglia

Front Street Concerts, Hopkinton, MA

July 27, 2019

A Danielle Miraglia show at the Front Street Concerts summer concert series is an annual tradition. She’s one of Boston’s best. Period. Periodically, Boston’s music award series notice, often when she releases new music, and lately seemingly more consistently, year-to-year, regardless: She has been nominated for Blues Artist of the Year at the Boston Music Awards each of the last two years, and she won Female Performer of the Year at the 2019 New England Music Awards. She’s a consistent draw, seemingly able to draw her legion of fans out to hear her perform even when she plays locally several times a month. Danielle’s live shows with a full band, as Danielle M & the Glory Junkies, are all styles of blues-rock, from in-your-face to soulful and rich, while her solo acoustic shows are more blues-folk, as bluesy songwriting-driven acoustic songs would tend to be. But her music is always performed with an energy, her songs often written with a sincere yet mischievous wink. And it’s a rare treat to get to have such a world-class talent perform frequently in our midst.

Danielle Miraglia at Front Street Concerts

photo by Geoff Wilbur

Front Street Concerts is a backyard “house concert” series with a dinner buffet, an outstanding way to spend a summer evening, with attendees treated to inspired food selections and always featuring some of the best musicians around, with one slot each summer reserved for Danielle Miraglia. There’s a stage, sound system, and some seats in the barn, while the barn doors are left open, so most attendees choose to outside under the stars (or a tent, depending on the weather) in lawn chairs brought from home.

Danielle Miraglia at Front Street Concerts

photo by Geoff Wilbur

I’ve written about Danielle’s gigs so often (album review, live review, live review, live review, live review, and a long-overdue album review for All My Heroes Are Ghosts currently half-written), I opted this time to simply jot down song titles and deliver a photo-heavy review while enjoying the evening, the surroundings, the company, and the music. This performance was a mostly-Glory-Junkies show – always a treat, as the band members are all among the top local musicians at each of their instruments, often busy elsewhere in the area on non-Glory Junkies nights. With Erik White on guitar, Chris Anzalone on drums, and Jim Larkin on bass, only violist Laurence Scudder was missing for this particular show.

Danielle Miraglia at Front Street Concerts

photo by Geoff Wilbur

Rather than the usual Front Street format of two short sets with an intermission, this show was one long set, followed by some socializing after the performance. The band opened with the rockin’ “See the Light” from the Box of Troubles CD, followed by cynical, current affairs-driven “Monster” and “All on Fire,” both from the All My Heroes Are Ghosts disc.

Next up was the title track, “All My Heroes Are Ghosts,” followed by the pop culture-skewering “Famous for Nothin'” from Danielle’s Glory Junkies disc, and Janis Joplin’s “Turtle Blues.” Because there has to be a Janis song during a Danielle Miraglia gig; very few people can channel Janis the way she does.

Danielle Miraglia at Front Street Concerts

photo by Geoff Wilbur

Following was a raucous rendition of “Everybody’s Wrong” and a new original, a real treat for which my notes simply say “soulful, soft, and powerful.” And “Stagger Lee” concluded the original music portion of the evening.

From there, Danielle M and 3/4ths of the Glory Junkies finished the night spinning covers. First up was their rendition of Tom Waits’ “2:19,” a crowd favorite at a Glory Junkies show because they really make it their own. Next up was a cover of “Proud Mary,” a deliverance of Big Mama Thornton’s “Hound Dog,” and a Stones cover to close the evening. (Yes, I forgot to write that one down and was only able to remember “Stones cover” by the time I got home.)

Danielle Miraglia at Front Street Concerts

photo by Geoff Wilbur

As always, the Danielle Miraglia performance at the Front Street Concert Series was a highlight of the summer. By now, that’s expected. I hope to see a few of you there along with me next summer. And, in the meantime, perhaps at some of Danielle’s other gigs in the Boston area. And beyond, of course, as she performs up and down the east coast.

Looking Ahead

To that end – that of catching a live performance – check out the “Shows” tab on Danielle’s website. I just missed getting this posted in time to direct you to a few out-of-town gigs; well, OK, most of those were in early October, so I missed most of the shows by a mile, but Danielle did perform on Long Island last night. Don’t worry, she’ll be back. Locally, on Saturday, December 7th, she’ll be performing at The Center for Arts at the Armory in Somerville, MA. Other December shows are: Wednesday, December 11th at The Porch Southern Fare & Juke Joint in Medford, MA; Friday, December 13th at Turtle Swamp Bierhalle in Boston, MA; Sunday, December 15th at Lower Falls House Concerts in Greenfield, MA; and Sunday, December 22nd at Toad in Cambridge.

Danielle Miraglia at Front Street Concerts

photo by Geoff Wilbur

Beyond that, 2020 shows currently booked are Saturday, January 11th at The Fallout Shelter in Norwood, MA; Saturday, February 15th at the Portsmouth Book & Bar in Portsmouth, NH; Saturday, April 4th at the South Shore Folk Music Club in Duxbury, MA; Saturday, April 18 at New Moon Coffeehouse in Haverhill, MA; Saturday, April 25th at Nineteen Carter in Berlin, MA; Friday, May 15th at Kelly Music Center in Havertown, PA; Sunday, May 17th at Daryl’s House in Pawling, NY; and Saturday, May 30th for the Tremedal Concerts series at First Parish of Watertown in Watertown, MA.

Obviously, more shows will be added, so check back at the website regularly and follow both the Danielle Miraglia and the Danielle M & the Glory Junkies pages on Facebook, as last-minute appearances sometimes pop up.

Front Street Concerts, meanwhile, has concluded its 2019 music series. Watch the website next year for 2020’s shows.

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.