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: Lori Diamond & Fred Abatelli – Lifted

Lori Diamond & Fred Abatelli

photo by Shannon Power; photo courtesy of Lori Diamond

Lofi Diamond & Fred Abatelli – Lifted

Album Review of Lori Diamond & Fred Abatelli: Lifted

Lori Diamond & Fred Abatelli - Lifted

image courtesy of Lori Diamond

There aren’t a lot of artists performing an easy listening folk style the way Lori Diamond & Fred Abatelli do. Lori’s full, rich, soaring voice combines with Fred’s adept, softly energetic and colorful guitarwork to put an original, engaging spin on a style that’s not lately been a significant destination for such talented artists. As a result, Lori and Fred are a dominant local force in this lane of the musical highway, and their well-crafted albums – Lifted the latest – are necessities for a well-rounded music collection. After numerous near misses, I finally caught the duo live this past fall, and now I’m pleased to review their most recent (2015) release.

This album begins with “Always There,” a soft, soaring, keyboard-powered number that features a blend of Lori and Fred’s vocals in support of Lori’s vocal lead.

Lori Diamond

photo by Nikilette Walker; photo courtesy of Lori Diamond

Influences are all pretty straightforward throughout the album – folk, soft rock, easy listening – but other influences pop up from time to time. There’s a little soul in Lori’s voice in second track “Way Back Home,” which otherwise comes across as a ’70s-style vocal soft pop tune. Indeed, many of the songs might have connected with more mainstream audiences in the ’70s, as that’s when vocal soft pop was at its pinnacle within pop culture. As is the case with all musical styles, though, there’s always room for the best in any genre, especially when they keep things modern and interesting. Great music is timeless.

Back to the album, though, the next track “Dreaming” picks up the tempo a bit, adding playful and jazzy elements.

Fred’s vocals take the lead on the title track, “Lifted,” a heartwarming love song that sums up the heart of this album, its warmth almost suspending time as it washes over the listener. This comfortable, uplifting warmth, in fact, is a hallmark of Fred & Lori’s music, fitting well with the duo’s personalities in a live setting.

Fred Abatelli

photo by Nikilette Walker; photo courtesy of Lori Diamond

“The Outside” follows with a bit more energy again, its path guided by Fred’s subtly adept guitarwork, easy to miss behind Lori’s softly dynamic vocals and the song’s message of inner vs. outer beauty.

“Good Harbor” is another soft song, with the richness of Lori’s voice in lead, supported by Fred’s, driving a song that’s clearly about a very special place. It’s followed by “Castle,” perhaps my favorite song on this disc, whose piano lead-in and late-song ivory-tickling combine with soaring vocals, ranging from rich power to softness, to weave an interesting, softly dynamic path.

“Wayfaring Stranger” is the only cover on the disc. It’s a full-on ’70s cocktail lounge-shaking number, showcasing Lori’s only serious vocal wails within this collection and featuring fancy Western-flavored, smooth axework from Fred. This original, inspired rendition is an adult contemporary musical masterwork.

Lori Diamond & Fred Abatelli

photo by Nikilette Walker; photo courtesy of Lori Diamond

The album closes softly again with “OM,” a peace and love-inspiring, warm, rich number. It’s the perfect choice to end a Lori Diamond & Fred Abatelli CD, as if the album rides off into the sunset leaving the listener surrounded by warmth. And there’s that word again. Warmth. That’s at the essence of Lori & Fred’s music on Lifted, warmth… delivered with care by a duo of exceptionally talented musicians.

Looking Ahead

Keep an eye on the tour page of Lori and Fred’s website to see when they’ll be performing near you. There are currently several dates listed around Massachusetts in the next few months.

Live Review: Lori Diamond and Fred Abatelli at Sholan Farms

Lori Diamond & Fred Abatelli

photo by Geoff Wilbur

Lori Diamond & Fred Abatelli

Sholan Farms, Leominster, MA

October 8, 2016

The Backstory

Two or three years ago, I found Lori & Fred’s music online. If I’m not mistaken, they were playing as part of the summer concert series in my town, and I checked out the various performers’ music when the schedule was released to decide who I might enjoy seeing. Though I wasn’t able to attend the show, I was impressed by their music. Notably, I thought the song “Mystery” was something quite special, so I downloaded it and played it regularly; it remains a song I keep on the rather limited playlist on my phone.

My first attempt to see them perform live was a concert for which I had purchased tickets weeks in advance before it was cancelled due to a snowstorm in the winter of 2014/15. Schedules haven’t matched up again until yesterday, when they played an afternoon set during Sholan Farms’ Harvest Celebration Weekend.

Lori Diamond & Fred Abatelli

photo by Geoff Wilbur

The Concert

It was a beautiful day for a concert. The rain held off until a few minutes into my drive home after the show. Lori and Fred played a mix of covers and originals, all suiting their style, which is relatively unique among widely-performing, popular local artists. I’d call it soft adult contemporary. You might label it easy listening, though I’d beg to differ, as the vocal dynamics and interesting guitar-picking place it in the more broadly-appealing AC category, with the potential for the occasional breakout, crossover pop hit. For those of us whose musical tastes defy category, though, they’re simply a pair of outstanding singers, songwriters, and musicians.

Lori’s sweet, powerful, versatile high voice harmonizes perfectly with Fred’s vocals. And when Fred sings vocal lead, he showcases his crisp. mid-range voice with an occasional vocal growl dropped in for good measure. Musically, Lori’s engaging piano-keyboardwork is augmented ably by Fred’s crisp riffs, often subtle, always adding texture to the songs. Often, Fred spices up slow-tempo songs with intricate, dancing soft guitarwork. Of course, I intentionally went to see this gig because I was impressed with what I had heard online, so I was hardly surprised when Lori and Fred delivered.

Lori Diamond & Fred Abatelli

photo by Geoff Wilbur

The duo mixed covers with originally during their performance. Lori’s vocals on “Crazy Love,” a standout cover, contained a soulful, almost gospelly sound, while there was maybe a hint of blues-gospel in Fred’s guitarwork.

I do, of course, love a good original. On “All Comes Round,” Lori and Fred swap lead vocal responsibility back and forth, as Lori’s sweet power pairs well with Fred’s vocal richness (and a well-placed growl). “Good Harbor”, meanwhile, is a sweet, hopeful, relaxing song about love.

Lori and Fred closed with “True,” a lush piano sound on the keys in this smooth song that recalls ’70s-style adult contemporary-edged pop; it showcases the particular phrasing style from that era’s singer-songwriter hits.

In the end, the concert was well worth the drive. Lori and Fred put on an entertaining, laid-back show. They mingled with the crowd during their break and at the end of their gig. And Sholan Farms was a friendly host for the day, with a food trailer providing lunch and a chance to snag a little cider at the farm store. I look forward to catching Lori Diamond & Fred Abatelli again in the future; and I love an afternoon, outdoor performance, so I’ll keep an eye out for future live music at this particular orchard in coming years, as well.

Sholan Farms

photo by Geoff Wilbur

Looking Ahead

Lori & Fred’s next date, per the tour page of their website, is 3 PM on Saturday, October 29th at Tower Hill Botanic Garden in Boylston, MA. Then they have a gig the evening of November 27th at Parish Center For the Arts in Westford, MA. See the duo’s website for more gigs scheduled in December and beyond, in addition to any new shows they add in the meantime.

Sholan Farms’ Harvest Celebration Weekend continues today and tomorrow. The orchard/farm has entertainment each day. Magic from Magic By George began at 12:30 today and dixieland swing from the Lou & Jan Borelli Duo will commence at 2:00. Steve Charette Magic and Comedy will provide entertainment tomorrow. The farm also has “eclectic acoustic” music from Ragged Heroes scheduled for next Sunday, October 16th. See Sholan Farms’ entertainment calendar for more information.