Review by Rudy Lu
Photographs by J Hunter and Andrzej Pilarczyk
Schenectady’s Music Haven was rocked by the down home sound of the blues last month in the summer’s third installment of 2012’s free concert series that takes lucky concert-goers “traveling the world one concert at a time.”
Powerhouse Philadelphia-based vocalist Deb Callahan sang a mixture of classic R&B covers, country blues, Texas blues and blues-rock, deftly balancing the mix of both originals and covers.
Opening her set with Ray Charles’ classic “Hallelujah, I Love Her So,” Callahan followed with a riff-driven topical song on single mothers, “Food on the Table.” Driven by a salacious hard-driving beat, Callahan and Co. fired up another topical song, “My Old Ways,” about the difficulties of change.
“I Got It Bad” was slamming, like some kind of Buddy Guy-meets-CCR mash-up, as her muscular power trio provided dynamic backing to her soulful voice. The band also excelled on the old standard “Somebody Loan Me a Dime.” (Anybody remember payphones?)
The band roared like a steam-rolling train on a state-of-the-economy blues original, “Credit Card Blues,” with the plain tone of guitarist Allen James providing plenty of fuel to the drive. Callahan danced across the stage with “Funkier than a Mosquita’s Tweeter” (culled from the songbags of both Tina Turner and Nina Simone), accompanied by the machine-gun-like drums of Tom Walling and the growling bass of Gary Lee.
Kicking off the show with plenty of heat of their own was the locally prominent Alison Jacobs/Matt Mirabile Band. Alison’s stage presence and growling vocals were the front-and-center focus, but the ace band’s playing certainly wasn’t reduced to mere backing status. The interplay between Matt Mirabile’s guitar and the keyboard playing of Jason Ladayne provided some frenzied fireworks during the instrumental breaks. The rock solid rhythm section of bassist Steve Aldi and drummer Joshua Bloomfield provided a solid foundation for everything that was happening on stage.
The Music Haven concert series in Schenectady’s Central Park wraps up its summer 2012 season on Sunday (August 12) with a performance by the Celtic band McPeake. Kicking off the evening at 7pm will be the traditional Scottish music sounds of fiddler Jane Rothfield and guitarist Allan Carr of the band Red Hen. Admission is free.