Album Review: Bob Kulick – Skeletons in the Closet

Bob Kulick

photo courtesy of Head First Entertainment

Album Review of Bob Kulick: Skeletons in the Closet

It’s a Bob Kulick album, so you know it’s gonna be good. But this exceeds all expectations. Guitarist Bob Kulick is joined on Skeletons in the Closet by lead vocalists David Glen Eisley, Andrew Freeman, Todd Kerns, Robin McAuley, Dennis St. James, Dee Snider, and Vick Wright; bass players Kjell Benner, Bobby Ferrari, Bruce Kulick, Dennis St. James, Rudy Sarzo, and Chuck Wright; keyboardists Doug Katsaros and Jimmy Waldo; and drummers Vinnie Appice, Frankie Banali, Chuck Burgi, Scot Coogan, Brent Fitz, Bobby Rock, Jay Schellen, and Eric Singer. Talk about an all-star cast! Surrounded by this talented crew of iconic ’80s rock cohorts, Bob has delivered a great, catchy, engaging new ’80s-style rock album.

Bob Kulick - Skeletons in the Closet

image courtesy of Head First Entertainment

And that’s what really counts. Indeed, as I listen to my album review queue in preparation for writing these reviews, the pedigree of the band is unimportant; the music itself rises and falls on its merits. Needless to say, the music on this album rises.

Skeletons in the Closet is a mix of new songs and recordings of material from Bob’s rock ‘n roll past, including a couple songs each from Murderer’s Row and Skull.

I won’t pretend to be familiar with Murderer’s Row or Skull; I wouldn’t have known which songs were old vs. new if I hadn’t read the bio. As much as all hard rockers know Bob’s skill, I personally own only a few of the albums he played on. But that puts me in a position to hear all ten of these songs for the first time, like a kid in a candy store, and they’re an awesome collection of sweets.

The album kicks off its 10-tune journey with the five new tracks – well, four new tracks and an inspired cover.

First up is “Rich Man,” and it roars out of the box with power. Screaming guitar riffs, pounding, popping drums, and soaring vocals. Next up is “Not Before You”, and yes, we all know the swirling amazement that is a Robin McAuley vocal, so it should be no surprise that this was also a quick favorite, but I was more unexpectedly exceptionally impressed with the foreboding power of Dee Snider’s vox in “London,” with the booming, roaring guitars combining to form a theatrical, almost heavy metal Broadway (think Phantom of the Opera) all-encompassing wave of power. (I frequently underestimate Dee’s powerfully textured voice; you’d think I would know better by now.)

Bob Kulick

photo courtesy of Head First Entertainment

The included cover of “Goldfinger” is catchy and fun. Vick Wright brings just the right amount of snarl to the vocal, and the familiar guitar line eventually builds to an apex. “Player” follows, a solid number with swirling guitars in a style reminiscent of hair metal’s Sunset Strip heyday.

The Murderer’s Row songs are “India” and the title track. Of the two, “India” stands out as the more unique number for its House of Lords-esque soaring overtone (ironically, with David Glen Eisley providing the vocals), with crunchy guitars serving as the underpinning. “Skeletons in the Closet” is a more straightforward rocker, with the vocals more controlled, always almost-soaring but not quite; the result is the sort of building tension that’s the reason this style is frequented in the first place.

“Can’t Stop the Rock” is an old Bob Kulick-David Glen Eisley churning rocker that dates back to the pair’s work on “Sweet Victory” for SpongeBob.

And the last two songs are Skull numbers. The first is quite probably my favorite song on the disc, “Guitar Commandos.” Dennis St. James’ just-slightly-gritty, insistent vocals perfectly punctuate the dueling guitarwork of brothers Bruce and Bob Kulick on this energetic tune, the perfect melodic metal backdrop to a movie chase scene.

Bob Kulick

photo courtesy of Head First Entertainment

The disc’s last track, “Eyes of a Stranger,” reminds me of several ’80s bands, which is probably why I have such a hard time picking just one for comparison. The pounding beat, occasional screeching guitar dancing through the song’s pulsing rhythm, and the tuneful vocals that hint at depth but, when given a choice, choose melody over emotion, rendering the vox a fourth instrument alongside guitar, bass, and drums – hence the almost orchestrally-arranged feeling of this and similar songs. From a pure musical standpoint, this is as pure a representation of the melodic metal raunch and roll era as any; a great way to end the disc, especially for those of us who appreciate the subgenre.

In all, this is a great disc, but would you expect any less from Bob Kulick and the talent he assembled for it? Consistently amazing guitars from Bob, varied song styles, and top-shelf musicianship and powerful vocals served up a who’s who of heavy rock icons. So if this is your style, grab and enjoy Eyes of a Stranger. And, if you’re like me and don’t have parts of Bob’s back catalog, it’ll probably inspire you to dig around into his discography a little, too (starting with the discs from Murderer’s Row and Skull).


Live Review: Lori Diamond & Fred Abatelli at Second Friday Sessions

Lori Diamond & Fred Abatelli with Kim Jennings

photo by Geoff Wilbur

Lori Diamond & Fred Abatelli

Second Friday Sessions, Unitarian Church of Marlborough and Hudson, Hudson, MA

December 8, 2017

You’ve read about Lori Diamond and Fred Abatelli here before – a live review and an album review. So I’ll keep this live review brief, since I’ve gone into great detail in the previous two reviews. Plus, I was out enjoying myself, so I barely took any notes beyond jotting down song titles.

The event was Second Friday Sessions, a monthly open mic night – built around a talented, well-known “featured performer” each month – at the local unitarian church. On this night, Lori and Fred were the featured performers.

Lori Diamond & Fred Abatelli with Kim Jennings

photo by Geoff Wilbur

I arrived about an hour into the evening and caught the last couple songs of a band full of young musicians, Paradox, gaining some valuable on-stage experience. Next up were Lori and Fred, who were joined on stage by another well-known local musician, Kim Jennings. This was a real treat for me, since I hadn’t gotten out to hear Kim before. Though, vocally, she was limited to background harmony duty, what a crisp, clear, great voice she has!

Of course, I knew what to expect from Lori and Fred. Lori has a rich, warm powerful voice that’s also hits impressive high notes. Fred’s vocals, as well, are strong, and his guitar-playing is really something special. In fact, I’ve commented that Fred does things on his acoustic guitar you usually only hear attempted on electric guitars. And for good reason. Fred’s exceptional, understated talent – so obvious if you’re really paying attention – allows his wizardry to bring a liveliness and attention to detail to the duo’s adult contemporary repertoire that’s rarely heard in this musical subgenre, especially true outside the nationally-famous few.

The eight-song set opened with “Good Harbor,” a crowd favorite that evokes emotion. Then “The Outside,” the first to feature some of Fred’s special guitar-playing.

Lori Diamond & Fred Abatelli with Kim Jennings

photo by Geoff Wilbur

On the first two songs, Lori sang lead, but “All Comes Round” was sung more as a duet. It was followed by a cover of Joni Mitchell’s “River.”

Lori and Fred unveiled a brand new original, “The Good in You,” a song with a fun, light positive energy. It showcased a head-turning intricate guitar run by Fred and kind of an “Outside”-ish vocal vibe in some of Lori’s soaring vocals. This one’s a keeper!

Next came “True,” a song with soaring vocals that strikes me as very piano ballady even in spite of the guitar parts. And the duo’s very cool rendition of “Wayfaring Stranger,” a song that appears on Lori & Fred’s album Lifted, performed in such an original arrangement they really make it their won.

The evening closed with “Lifted,” a song featuring Fred’s vocals in the lead, supported by keyboards and allowing a chance to really showcase stunning backing vocal harmonies from Lori and Kim.

I’m glad I was able to get out to this show. It’s always fun see Lori and Fred perform. The music’s so mellow but performed with such energy; it’s always an evening you’ll walk away from smiling and glad you came.

Looking Ahead

I don’t see the next Second Friday Session listed, but keep an eye out for it, presumably around the second Friday of each month.

A house concert tonight, Saturday, is Lori & Fred’s last currently-scheduled performance of 2017, but they already have several shows scheduled for 2018. On January 13th, they’ll be at the Original Congregational Church in Wrentham, MA. On March 25th, they’re scheduled to perform at the Amazing Things Arts Center in Framingham, MA. On June 9th, they’ll be performing at the Newton Festival of the Arts in Newton, MA. And on July 21st,  they’ll be at the Shrewsbury Public Library in Shrewsbury, MA. See the “Tour” page of their website for details. And check back as they add more dates.

Album Review: Fernando Perdomo – The Golden Hour

Album Review of Fernando Perdomo: The Golden Hour

Fernando Perdomo is a modern manifestation of a ’70s/’80s soft rock reimagination of Tom Jones, crooning love songs with warm, fully orchestrated rock ‘n roll sound beds. Musically, he’s a ’70s/’80s slow rocker, someone whose music suggests influences from Moody Blues to John Lennon, his rolling soft rock numbers offering hints of the more piano-heavy numbers from the repertoires of Kansas or Styx.

The Golden Hour kicks off with “Sunset (Intro),” a piano intro that leads into a rich, lush, slow, Moody Blues-esque crooner, “Sleep.”

Fernando then picks up the tempo with “Spotlight Smile,” a familiarly comfortable, totally laid-back yet energetic ’70s guitar pop-rock-ish number, something well-suited to a concert on the beach. Perhaps the beach shown on the album cover.

Fernando Perdomo - The Golden Hour

image courtesy of ACR Management

Indeed, beaches, palm trees, and sunsets seem to be the perfect backdrop for most of The Golden Hour‘s songs. The next track, “Look At the Moon,” deploys some mild guitar hooks a bit reminiscent of Cheap Trick. Mellow Cheap Trick.

“Here With Me” is a nice ballad, its guitar hinting at a Hawaiian twang. “Sunset,” meanwhile, opens with a guitar sound and vocal intro relatively akin to Pink Floyd. The mellowest Pink Floyd you’ve ever heard.

“Love Loss Repeat” is one of my favorite songs on the album, lyrically a clever thought, with standard mid-tempo drumming, mellowly powerful melodic rises and falls, and interesting supplemental harmonies. Perhaps my very favorite is “I Feel (Therefore I Am),” with an interesting, classic guitar line, mid-tempo rock with a bit of an ’80s distorted axe flair.

A couple more songs are standouts, as well. “When You’re Here With Me” is a close-your-eyes, turn-out-the-lights slow rock swayer, suitable for an arena full of lighters held high, with a late-song guitar solo driving home that classic arena rock lineage. And album-ender “Gold,” even though it protests “I’m tired of sleeping/It’s time to live” sways and jangles almost as if it wants to put the listener to sleep. As such, it’s a great closing number, gently lifting the covers up on this engaging 13-song soft, classic, ’70s-era, lushly produced pop-rock album and putting it to bed.

Excellent musicianship, tight songwriting, and warm, precise production combine to deliver The Golden Hour, a disc that clearly showcases Fernando’s talent from the first listen and whose songs’ initially apparent strengths grow on you with repeated listens, as you start to notice the precision and interesting details.

Kansas, Cheap Trick, Moody Blues… Fernando Perdomo is a soft pop-rock version of a lot of my favorite old rock bands. And that’s pretty cool for whenever I want to hear good music with rich, lush, full production, but don’t want it too loud. Per Fernando’s website, The LA Weekly says he’s “The millennial answer to Todd Rundgren.” Yeah. I wish I had thought of that.

Looking Ahead

I don’t see any upcoming shows listed on the Events tab of Fernando’s Facebook page, but be sure to check back regularly to see, particularly if you’re in southern California, since he’s based in Los Angeles.

EP Review: Liz Bills – Liz Bills

Liz Bills

photo by Scott Bakal; photo courtesy of Liz Bills

EP Review of Liz Bills: Liz Bills

This brand new self-titled four-song EP – it’s scheduled to drop on Saturday, November 18th – is the first solo release by Analog Heart frontwoman Liz Bills. Liz has a voice you can recognize quickly. It’s powerful, versatile, original, and memorable.

When I first heard Liz with Analog Heart, I was impressed, but with each successive step, I’ve heard growth. In dynamic delivery, full utilization of her vocal tools, consistently strong songwriting and the ability to find unique hooks. Most of all, though, while conveying a confidence and feeling that she is exactly where she belongs. That has always been a strength of Liz’s (at least during the two-plus years since I first – and last – saw her perform); her presence just seems to get stronger with each recording.

Liz Bills EP cover

image courtesy of Liz Bills

You’ve seen reviews of Analog Heart’s Sun Here I Come album last year and, this past summer, the band’s “Not Good Enough” single here in the Blog. Those had a band vibe. Liz’s new, eponymous EP is still a rock album, but it really showcases her voice and personality within and beyond the music. And hits. It has hits. The first two tracks on the collection are immediate, smack-you-in-the-face with their catchiness kind of hits; the back end of the EP, meanwhile, is subtler in its hookiness, obviously good songs even at first, but they ultimately hit you sneaky-hard as you peel back their layers and discover their massive coolness.

The first half of the collection, which I’ll call the “instant favorites” half, begins with “Born to Wander,” a big song with energetic strumming and rhythm, monster hooky stop-gaps and tempo changes, big, powerful vocals that include Liz’s crystal clear highs, and plenty of engaging character.

It’s followed by “My Man,” another smack-you-in-the-face, memorable-from-the-first-listen, causes-music-journalists-to-overuse-hyphens tune. There’s a bit of a ’70s funky rhythm and some tempo-changing lyrical runs, but the most Liz Bills element of the song is a spoken word, conversational, encouraging/empowering-conversation-with-the-audience portion, something she does memorably well, a trick Analog Heart fans might recognize from “She’s Rock ‘n’ Roll.” Indeed, “My Man” is a song you won’t soon forget.

Liz Bills

photo by Jonathan Rummel; photo courtesy of Liz Bills

The “back half” of Liz’s EP contains a couple songs whose hooks are slightly more hidden but very certainly potent and likely with a more permanent impact. “Werewolf,” the first single from the disc, was released October 21st. It has a subtler, rhythmically nuanced vocal, a song that softly ratchets the intensity, punctuated by howls that are both appealing and a bit confusing, at least until you start to pay attention to the lyrics (or, at least the song title). Oh, the lyrics are well-crafted to tell the song’s tale, and they match the journey of the song as well as its vocalization and instrumentation, musically leaning on the rich texture and versatility of Liz’s voice while only hinting at its power. “Werewolf” is a thoughtfully-constructed, very cool rock ‘n roll song and quite possibly my favorite…

Unless my favorite is “Bomb Song.” It’s also lyrically clever. And, as with “Werewolf,” once you stop listening passively and pay attention to said lyrics, the unusual point of emphasis, “bang,” suddenly makes sense and becomes the lyric you sing along to the most, just as you start to howl after several listens to “Werewolf.” “Bomb Song” also sports a cool, rhythmic, not-quite-syncopated strum that, at the end, halts abruptly. Abruptly emphasizing the brevity of this four-song collection and making you want more. So, of course, this is an EP that has to be played on repeat.

In the end, yes, I’ve been in Liz Bills’ camp for a while now, intrigued the first time I heard her perform live. At the time, before I started blogging and just as “Merrimack Jane” was released, I thought Analog Heart had finally hit its songwriting groove, found its niche. The band rounded a corner with a strong album beginning to end with Sun Here I Come. And now Liz has managed to kick things up another notch with her eponymous solo EP. She’ll have to blow the roof off the proverbial joint to lift her game any higher, and I look forward to hearing her try. I bet she can. For now, though, I’ll just sing and howl along with her all-too-short solo EP, and I suggest you do the same. This rock ‘n roll singer-songwriter-bandleader is something special.

Looking Ahead

The “tour” section of Liz’s website lists her upcoming tour, kicking off with a Saturday, November 18th album release show at the Chit Chat Lounge in Haverhill, MA. The subsequent tour includes stops in Millvale, PA; Cincinnati, OH; Burns, TN; Nashville, TN; Louisville, KY; Richmond, VA; Lynchburg, VA; Baltimore, MD; and Brooklyn, NY before she returns to Massachusetts for a December 5th date at Atwood’s Tavern in Cambridge. Check Liz’s website for details and for additional dates as they’re added.

Live Review: Eric Schwartz at The Backyard

Eric Schwartz

photo by Geoff Wilbur

Eric Schwartz

The Backyard, Brighton, MA

November 5, 2017

A series of scheduling conflicts have kept me from getting to The Backyard earlier this year. But this late addition to the calendar provided an opportunity to get to one of my favorite local live music spaces at least once during 2017.

Eric Schwartz

photo by Geoff Wilbur

Meanwhile, I had thought to catch Eric Schwartz at his Fox Run House Concerts show on November 25th this year at another very cool local house concert performance space. But this Backyard show allowed me to see Eric perform live while resolving a potential Thanksgiving weekend schedule conflict. Win-win.

Eric Schwartz, if you’re not familiar with him, is one of America’s preeminent comedy singer-songwriters; I’ve seen him referred to as “folk,” but that is a bit of a misnomer, as his style incorporates a variety of musical influences crossing various singer-songwriter subcategories. Perhaps the one song that gained the most notoriety was one of Eric’s political ditties, his 2008 International Songwriting Competition winning song, “Clinton Got a BJ.” (NSFW word tweaked to avoid search engine wrath.) More recently, his social commentary jam “I Gotta Problem With That” has drawn some attention, but my personal favorite Eric Schwartz tune – the one that made it onto my smartphone playlist – is the hilarious screenplay-in-a-song “Don’t Tell My Wife.”

Eric Schwartz

photo by Geoff Wilbur

I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from an Eric Schwartz live performance, since this was my first time seeing him in person, but this guy’s one of the best at what he does – and, as I always say, it’s always worthwhile to see musicians who excel in any lane of the 50-lane superhighway that is their craft – so I jumped at the chance.

It’s sometimes hard to tell where Eric’s musical and comedic noodling turns into a song and when it’s merely noodling – though a perusal of his ReverbNation page and a scan of the song titles on his albums may help figure out where to draw the lines. Regardless, Eric performed about 15 songs on this particular evening. Or 18. Your call. It was a chilly evening in Brighton, but thanks to some unseasonable warmth, still a decent night for a live show.

Eric Schwartz

photo by Geoff Wilbur

Eric’s first song of the evening was an R-rated comedic female-hygiene-related adaption of “Saving All My Love For You,” setting the bar at its clearly-not-for-children adultest right from the start. Next up was my personal favorite, “Don’t Tell My Wife,” rather Hee Haw-ish in its delivery at times, just like on the recording. ‘Til now, though, I had no idea it was actually based on a true story. “Don’t Ask” followed, a bluesy soul-like word salad sporting significant rhythmic vocal scatting.

Eric followed that with his most political song of the evening, “He Won,” a tale of the last presidential election as seen through the eyes of an unhappy deity, delivered devilishly in a dark, smoky narrative vocal style; perhaps I’ve said too much.

Any political conservatives who couldn’t find humor in the prior track, though, hopefully returned from their bathroom breaks in time for the next number, Eric’s voyage through a seemingly random collection of rhyming words that he tied together at the end… quite cleverly. You’ll know it when you hear it. And he followed that up with the frighteningly unhygienic “Telltale Kitchen.”

Eric Schwartz

photo by Geoff Wilbur

Following some hilariously demented children’s music and some more comedy noodling, Eric moved on to his uber, ultra, meta-country song, “There’s a Picture.” (Do I need to warn you not to click through on this link if you’re at work? Really, with Eric’s songs, it’s always a risk.)

Politics returned with “I’ve Got a Problem With That,” followed by Eric’s Gospel song, “The Better Man,” a song of forgiveness… of oneself.

With that, in spite of a supposed zero percent chance of rain (when I checked my weather app earlier in the day), drops of water fell from the sky, so the show moved indoors for the final two songs. First up, Eric swung through his catchy, hooky ode to lesbian trailblazers, “Hattie and Mattie.” And then he closed the evening with “Hallelujah,” a brilliantly NSFW re-imagining of the tune and its cliched use by vocally-talented would-be troubadours to melt women’s… um… let’s just say “it’s ability to attract women” and leave it at that.

Eric plans to take some time off from touring soon, so catch him now if you can. At least, jump at the chance if you’d enjoy a fun, lighthearted evening of clever, imaginative, occasionally political, and often highly inappropriate (adult?) musical comedy. I can’t say it too often: This dude’s one of the best at what he does.

Eric Schwartz

photo by Geoff Wilbur

Looking Ahead

This is the last backyard show of the season at The Backyard, but you should bookmark the “Events” page of the venue’s website and check back for future show listings. Liking The Backyard’s Facebook page is probably also a good idea.

West coast-based Eric Schwartz has a few more gigs in the northeast over the next month, with dates scheduled on Saturday, November 25th in Sudbury, MA; Saturday, December 2nd in Oswego, NY; and Sunday, December 3rd in Oxford, NY. See the “Shows” page of Eric’s website for additional information and to see upcoming live dates whenever they’re added.

One Last Advisory

It’s worth repeating, and I’m serious here: Do not sample Eric’s music while at work. Wait until you get home, lock the doors, turn out the lights, and for heaven’s sake, use protection… I mean, headphones.

Album Review: Savoy Brown – Witchy Feelin’

Album Review of Savoy Brown: Witchy Feelin’

Yes, that Savoy Brown. Legendary British blues rockers you’d know mostly from the ’60s and ’70s, though they’ve been releasing music pretty steadily ever since. And by they, I mean Kim Simmonds and whoever is in the band with him, as he has churned through a significant number of bandmates through the years under the moniker Savoy Brown; Pat Desalvo (bass) and Garnet Grimm (drums) have been Kim’s bandmates since 2009.

Savoy Brown - Witchy Feelin'

image courtesy of Howlin’ Wuelf Media

Through the years, though, Kim’s bluesy guitar wail and bluesy vocals have been a constant, while his list of former Savoy Brown colleagues is impressive in both quantity and quality.

That telltale axework doesn’t take long to appear on Witchy Feelin’, as first track “Why Did You Hoodoo Me” kicks of with crunch and power, a deep bluesy vocal acting as a New Orleans-inspired booming siren call. It is a proper introduction to this old-school, classic blues rock album. Like fine wine, this disc just improves with age; it’s solid at first listen, but the attention to detail helps this collection dig its tentacles in like smoke from an old blues club filters its way through the seams and into the lining of your leather jacket. It’s loud, smelly, and worth the time to fully enjoy.

My other favorite track, closer to the middle of the collection, is “Guitar Slinger,” another crunchy guitar-driven, unforgivingly ploddingly advancing blues rocker, perhaps a bit George Thorogood-esque but with more fancy ’70s rock fretwork in some of the guitar runs.

Savoy Brown

photo courtesy of Howlin’ Wuelf Media

Those selections betray my preferences, though. If you’re more of a “Sweet Home Chicago” meets the Fabulous Thunderbirds kind of music fan, you might prefer “Vintage Man.” And the songs “Living on the Bayou” and “Memphis Blues” are additional standout tracks, each illustrating the source of its own particular blues roots in its song title.

“Standing in a Doorway” is a blues-soaked version of what might otherwise be a Dire Straits tune but crunchier and deeper vocalled. And the album ends with a suitable closing blues number, “Thunder, Lightning, and Rain,” a song that includes plenty of street cred-establishing jams, a bar-closing, “you don’t have to go home but you can’t stay here”-worthy spoken-blues delivery and noisy slow fade leading to an abrupt end.

I’m glad I gave this album a few listens. Its music starts off solid and grows on you by the sixth or eighth listen, a classic blues-rock album delivered by a talented veteran crew that really knows what it’s doing. Witchy Feelin’ is a welcome addition to my music collection; it’s a comfortable old-school disc I know I’ll reach for when in a specific mood for years to come.

Looking Ahead

Per the “tour dates” page of the band’s website, Savoy Brown is, indeed, on the road.  You can see them November 17th at Rams Head On Stage in Annapolis, MD; November 18th at the Sellersville Theater in Sellersville, PA; November 25th at The Montage Music Hall in Rochester, NY; November 26th at the Sportsmen’s Tavern in Buffalo, NY; December 1st and 2nd at Iridium Jazz Club in New York, NY; December 8th at The Upper Room in Albany, NY; December 15th at The Bull Run in Shirley, MA; and December 16th at Daryl’s House in Pawling, NY. Go to the band’s website for additional details and more live dates as they are added.


Live Review: Corey McLane at Hudson House Restaurant

Corey McLane

photo by Geoff Wilbur

Corey McLane

Hudson House Restaurant, Hudson, MA

October 27, 2017

One of the cool things about hearing a talented hard rock singer like Corey McLane doing an acoustic cover night is that you get to hear songs from a variety of musical styles delivered by a power voice. Corey is the lead singer of Exhale – I would suggest checking out some of his band’s music here on their bandcamp page – and you can hear the vocal power in the songs he performs, even when the songs themselves don’t feature it.

Corey McLane

photo by Geoff Wilbur

The Hudson House is a cool place to catch music, too. It has a kind of neighborhood bar feel on the bar side (with a nice restaurant on the restaurant side of the house). On this particular night, a lot of folks turned out specifically to see Corey, so it was fun crowd. I like to grab something off the menu to combine live music with a late dinner when I come here, and after a big lunch yesterday, I found something delicious (the kielbasa) from the appetizer menu to try.

I had about an hour and a half block of time available last night, and that carried me through more than 20 songs from Corey, plus a few at the end on which Nikki McLane joined him. There were only a couple songs on Corey’s set list I couldn’t identify, so I know it was either entirely or virtually entirely a set of covers. And, though I hadn’t heard him sing live before, his vocals were as crisp and powerful as I had expected from listening to his band’s recordings, with even the mellowest of covers being drenched in his identifiable, grungy-metal tone, sporting something akin to gravel in his voice, but it really comes across more as a warble or a wobble, though those aren’t exactly right either. The key point, though, is that this dude has a powerful, crisp, identifiable voice, and that’s what you’re looking for in a voice that can fill an arena or develop a large, loyal following.

Corey McLane

photo by Geoff Wilbur

Corey opened the evening with “Ain’t No Sunshine,” then followed it with a heavy, brooding number (one of the two for which I didn’t catch the title), doing a song-to-song contrast thing he seems to like to do.

There were plenty of instances in which Corey’s take on various hits was interesting and entertaining. His performance of Soul Asylum’s “Runaway Train,” for example, got the grizzle in the vocal but with kind of an ominous echo overlay. He nailed the howls on “The Joker.” And his performance of The Flys’ “Got You (Where I Want You)” was delivered with an almost Southern hard rock wail while being driven by a sound much bigger than he should have been able to get from an acoustic guitar.

It was fun to hear Corey deliver a song like Marcy Playground’s “Sex and Candy” that’s right in his wheelhouse and then, a couple songs later, to follow it with an on-point performance of Pure Prairie League’s “Amie.” He also back-to-backed a very properly brooding rendition of Bush’s “Glycerine” with Third Eye Blind’s energetic “Semi-Charmed Life,” a song whose opening chords elicit a smile that seems so amusingly out of place coming moments after the closing chords of “Glycerine.”

Corey McLane

photo by Geoff Wilbur

Other standouts during the set included Tracy Chapman’s “Give Me One Reason,” Imagine Dragons’ “Radioactive,” and The Who’s “Behind Blue Eyes.” But I actually stopped taking notes after song number 22, Corey’s spot-on version of 4 Non Blondes’ “What’s Up.” He sounded shudderingly too close to exactly like 4NBs’ Linda Perry, including nailing all the quirky stuff.

Shortly thereafter, Corey was joined by Nikki, and the two performed a few songs before my exit, notably OneRepublic’s “Counting Stars.” Actually, most notably another tune, but I didn’t jot down its title, so we’ll stick with saying “Counting Stars” was the most notable,

In any case, it was a heck of a fun evening of music delivered by an exceptionally talented vocalist. I’d suggest getting out to give him a listen if he’s doing the solo thing at a bar near you; a pure, top-shelf, big stage-caliber voice doing a variety of your favorite tunes. And, of course, if you’re into the heavier stuff, give his band Exhale a listen.

Looking Ahead

You can follow Corey’s solo acoustic performances via the “Events” tab of his Facebook page. And you can follow his band’s Exhale gig schedule via the “Shows” page of their website or on the band’s Facebook “Events” page. In fact, you can catch Exhale tonight at Carlo Rose in Pelham, NH or next Saturday, November 4th, at a Toys for Tots benefit show at Sammy’s Patio in Revere, MA. And I see more gigs in New Hampshire, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island before year-end, so check out the band’s calendar (as well as Corey’s solo show list) and catch some loud rock & roll (or a bunch of well-known covers performed by a dude with a powerful rock ‘n roll voice).