Live Review: Davey O. house concert

Davey O. house concert in Newton

photo by Geoff Wilbur

Davey O.

House concert in Newton, MA

May 11, 2018

The Backstory

I first reviewed Davey O. two decades ago when he handed me his demo cassette at the 1997 Philadelphia Music Conference.  Most recently, I reviewed his latest album, A Bright Horizon Line, here at the Blog. In the interceding years, he has harnessed his talent ever-increasingly to the point that he is now one of the premier regionally touring folk-flavored singer-songwriters in the Northeast, a must-see performer. So, though I have seen him perform once before, it is a pleasure to finally have an opportunity to write a review one of his live shows.

The Concert

Davey O. kicked the evening off with “Easy Work,” a song that fully showcases his musical talents. His trademark rich, smooth, and rough-edged vocals supported by lush chords with interesting strumming patterns. That’s Davey O.

Davey O. house concert in Newton

photo by Geoff Wilbur

Songs like “Nothing Could Go Wrong” emphasize another of Davey’s strengths: He’s all about the phrasing, riding the rhythm of the lyrics with his voice.

Davey’s first set continued with “In Its Own Time,” which highlights one of the first things I noticed that set Davey apart nearly two decades ago, his songwriting. He knows how to spin a yarn, and it’s a talent he has developed through the years, so much so that he’s one of the very best around, weaving tales and painting pictures in his very own, identifiable style. On this particular number, it is all about the lyrics, but also about finding the perfect rhythm to wrap them in.

A host-favorite at this event, “Ask Yourself the Question,” from Davey’s No Passengers disc, uniquely mixes a Johnny Cash-ish haunt with the tunefulness of the Eagles.

Davey closed the first set with a couple of my favorites off of his latest record, the catchy and fun “For Them” and pleasant, poignant strummer “Making Good Time,” which again highlights Davey’s great way with lyrics.

The second set kicked off with a rocking, rollicking travelling song, “Coming Home” and the evening’s sole cover, Crowded House’s “Better Be Home Soon,” a number very much suited to Davey’s range and style.

Davey O. house concert in Newton

photo by Geoff Wilbur

From No Passengers, Davey delivered “Standing in These Shoes,” a old country-meets-Jim Croce, character-driven song. Later in the set, Davey delivered “Ev’ry Single Day,” from his Testing for Rust release, an ode to hard-working people everywhere, a Springsteen-esque number he delivers a bit like a gruff John Mellencamp.

The second set also included a couple new songs. “Manistique” is an appealing, picture-painting tune about simple pleasures in remote places. And “A Little While,” with which Davey closed the evening. I like the way this song moves through its chord progressions. It rises and falls, ebbs and flows, making it seem new and fresh but also familiar.

Fresh but familiar are elements in a lot of Davey O’s songs. They’re the reason his music is a joy to listen to even as it feels like an old friend, whether on the first few listens or after a few hundred. And as enjoyable as his albums are, his presence and warmth in-person make his shows memorable evenings. I’m glad I was able to attend on this particular Friday night. I’d suggest getting out to a show when you can. And listening to his albums when you can’t.

Looking Ahead

Davey O. is a road warrior. Check out the “Tour” page of his website for upcoming dates. Tonight, Thursday, May 17th, you can catch him hosting the Nickel City Sessions at Nickel City Frets in Akron, NY. And on Friday, May 18th, he’ll be at the Tavern at Windsor Park in Williamsville, NY. After that, over the coming months, with shows already booked almost every weekend into the fall, Davey has gigs already scheduled in New York, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Kentucky, Ohio, Michigan, Massachusetts, Maine, Illinois, South Dakota, West Virginia, Maryland, and Virginia. There are still plenty of open dates on his calendar, too, so be sure to check his website for additional updates as more gigs are added.

Album Review: Davey O. – A Bright Horizon Line

Davey O.

photo courtesy of Davey O.

Davey O. – A Bright Horizon Line

The Backstory

I first encountered Davey O. at the Philadelphia Music Conference in the mid/late-1990s. At the time, I was publishing Geoff Wilbur’s Renegade Newsletter, and he was trying build his music career. He had a demo cassette with a handwritten name and phone number on it. I remember being impressed by the music on it. He remembers that I wrote a positive review, so apparently my memory is right. And all these years later, while I placed my writing career on hiatus for more than a decade, he built his fanbase, released more music, and became one of the more popular, widely-traveled touring musicians the northeastern quarter of the United States.

Album Review of Davey O.: A Bright Horizon Line

Davey O. - A Bright Horizon Line

image courtesy of Davey O.

Davey O. has a style all his own… and, at the same time, not unlike a lot of other top folk artists. Most importantly, his voice is insistent, tuneful, and carries a lot of emotion, exactly what’s necessary to tell a good story. He also approaches his songs vocally from a variety of angles, allowing his album to contain stylistic variance and remain entertaining from beginning to end. Indeed, on at least a third of his songs, there’s a more western style of strumming, earning Davey the occasional sub-classification of Americana, and rightly so. I’d say his more country songs perhaps categorize him alongside Willie Nelson, while his folk songs would place him onstage with anyone from Bob Dylan to Jim Croce, though Davey’s voice is a bit smoother. And while I wouldn’t classify his voice as gravelly, he is capable of accessing a rough edge whenever he ups the emotional ante. In any case, for anyone whose tastes are triangulated by (or even border) that trio of artists, Davey will hit your sweet spot.

Davey O.

photo courtesy of Davey O.

A Bright Horizon Line opens with “The Easy Work,” a powerful, familiar folk strum that combines with his textured vocals, enhanced by the warm sound of a good acoustic guitar, serving as a welcome and representative introduction to the disc.

The album closes with an intriguing folk version of “Don’t Dream It’s Over,” Davey’s one cover song on the disc, with a full, rich sound interacting well with his pleasingly strained, characteristically emotionally connected vocals.

In between, Davey weaves an interesting trail throughout A Bright Horizon Line, playing to his various strengths, relying on the familiar, textured voice and wisely-selected strumming patterns to connect with his listeners. This man is a true professional, an expert at his craft.

Davey O.

photo courtesy of Davey O.

Davey’s insistent, pleading, rough-hewn vocals drive “In Its Own Time” with a memorable edge that has, I’ve noticed, propelled it to some recognition within the folk community. I, meanwhile, favor “Just For Them,” with its more plainspoken, vocally-rawer emotional connection, combined with some nifty guitar-picking, almost like a folk-lullaby with a thoughtful message.

There’s some humor mixed in with life-examining lessons learned during “Making Good Time.” And you can hear a tortured soul in Davey’s voice during the lament-filled “Ok,” which closes with a pleasantly piano-supported guitar fade.

Davey O.

photo courtesy of Davey O.

The deployment of a harmonica on strummer “Coming Home” is a nice touch, as is the country twang supporting “Nothing Could Go Wrong.” In fact, there’s something seventies pop-folk-country in that song’s flavor; I think I hear crossover potential.

One of the more energetic songs on the record, “My Parade” is about the closest thing to a knee-slapper and foot-stomper you’ll find in this collection, with simultaneous picking and strumming guitar lines combining to boost the tempo. That’s followed by Davey’s poetic folk homage to his hometown, “To Buffalo.”

In the end, Davey O.’s voice and guitar show a bit of variety on the album, which is why it’s so easy to listen to in its entirety. It’s also what extends Davey’s appeal beyond just hardcore folkies. Check out A Bright Horizon Line. Regardless of your preferred genre, Davey’s voice will reach your soul, and the lyrics on at least one of his songs is likely to speak to something deep inside you. Now it’s up to you to give this disc a few listens to find that song.

Davey O.

photo courtesy of Davey O.

Looking Ahead

Davey O. tours widely and almost constantly. Centered in Buffalo, NY, his gigs span hundreds of miles in all directions. Look for shows near you on the tour page of his website. Dates are added as he books them, and there are currently some shows listed as far as 8 months out. Between now and the 4th of July, he’ll be in Pittsburgh, PA (June 1st), Zanesville, OH (June 2nd), Thomas, WV (June 3rd and 4th), Hamburg, NY (June 7th), Clarence, NY (June 9th), Williamsville, NY (June 10th), Hamburg, NY again (June 11th), Lockport, NY (June 14th), Hamburg, NY yet again (June 15th), Andover, NH (June 16th), Clinton, CT (June 17th), Orchard Park, NY (June 22nd), Depew, NY (early June 24th), Williamsville, NY again (later June 24th), Raymond, OH (June 30th), and Lakewood, OH (July 1st). Be sure to check Davey’s website to see if he’s playing near you at some time in the next 8 months, and check back regularly as he adds additional dates.