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Old Dominion writes the songs, too

Royale, Boston, December 17, 2015

Reviewed by Jeffrey B. Remz

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For the uninitiated, Old Dominion may have seemed more like a cover band mixing in a few of the band's debut album. After all, those indeed were versions of the Blake Shelton hit "Sangria" and Tyler Farr's "A Guy Walks Into a Bar" emanating from the stage.

Not to mention Kenny Chesney's "Save It For a Rainy Day," Sam Hunt's "Ex to See" and a few more from Dierks Bentley and Craig Morgan.

But the na´ve would be wrong because, in fact, Old Dominion band members had a hand in writing every single of those hit songs even if at least one person in the crowd questioned whether they had, much to the chagrin of lead singer Matthew Ramsey.

And now they're out on their own with a big hit song of their own, "Break Up With Him," along with a host of radio friendly songs that are what's passing for country these days from their brand new debut CD, "Meat and Candy."

Old Dominion certainly benefited from being songwriters because playing all 11 songs on "Meat and Candy" didn't sound like they were merely trying to fill and kill time (of course, when you're headlining, you'd better have enough material to make for a nearly 90-minute show, and that Old Dominion did).

The quintet's material continuously proved pleasant to the ear, starting the night off with "Shut Me Up" and their new single "Snap Back" to the mid-tempo, easy sounds of "Half Empty," perhaps the most country sounding song in their repertoire.

For the most part, Old Dominion was a band that had soulful, sometimes funky feel thanks to the phrasing of Ramsey with large doses of rock and a bit of hip hop ("Wrong Turns") in the mix.

Unfortunately, like many songwriters who remain songwriters and not performers, Ramsey's vocals were plain in a way that was not the case on the CD. He wasn't a particularly expressive singer live, nor was it all that easy to hear his vocals. His vocals just seemed to cut out. In fact, in a number of songs, the crowd took over the vocals, and he could barely be heard at all. Maybe their soundman needed to turn Ramsey's vocals up to 11.

It also didn't help that they went for a rhythm heavy sound at times with drummer White Sellers and bassist Geoff Sprung going for a bit too much of a one-two punch.

Curiously, despite the fact that the sell-out crowd comprised overwhelming of college age students (and definitely weighted towards the female side) sang lustily along time and again without being pandered to do so, there was barely any response from Old Dominion left the stage.

But come back they did, ending with a few more songs well within their wheelhouse - and they even wrote those too.