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Size doesn't matter to Winslow-King

The Church, Boston, May 23, 2013

Reviewed by Jeffrey B. Remz

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Luke Winslow-King may have a fine new CD out ("The Coming Tide") on a long respected indie country/roots label (Bloodshot), but that didn't mean the throngs were going to fill the club. In fact, in a second night of shows in the Boston area, Winslow-King drew a handful of people. Well, make that literally two handfuls of people.

As in 10 people.

But Winslow-King should not despair. Nor should his label. That's because Winslow-King showed exactly why the secret should be out. The foundation of the Michigan native, based in New Orleans, is bluesy sounds of the old timers. But he veers towards jazzy and country swing sounds as well. In other words, there's more than enough there to keep the show moving.

Winslow-King's ace in the hole was his guitar playing, particularly a lot of slide playing throughout the nearly 65-minute show. His playing is fluid and melodical without cranking it, squeezing in as many notes as possible or resorting to any sort of histrionics. Clapton was a reference point sound-wise.

Winslow-King also possesses voice adept in a variety of styles. There is an even keel to his singing as well.

He was aided and abetted in his singing by Esther Rose, who handled the washboard chores. Not only did she establish a sturdy rhythm section with upright bassist Cassidy Holden, but Esther also often helped out Winslow-King with backing vocals and harmonies. She also took lead on one song, Bumble Bee. The combination of voices worked out, particularly on the title track of the new CD.

Playing only about half of "The Coming Tide," more would have been far more welcome.

It would have been easy for Winslow-King to phone in this performance. After all, it's not all that easy to get very excited to playing before 10 people. But Winslow-King, Esther Rose and Holden never seemed to care and never went through the motions.

As an added treat, Winslow-King encored, which didn't seem all that required on his end, with a superb The Light From Your Lighthouse, a Rev. Gary Davis song done off-mic with all three near the front of the stage. In fact, two women in the audience, who saw him the previous night, supplied the chorus from the floor.

You need to start someplace, and Winslow-King said afterwards that this was his first full-fledged tour of the U.S., trying to hit all areas. Like the movie said, "if you build it, they will come." In the case of Winslow-King, he already has built a superb musical foundation. And based on this evening anyway, they ought to be coming. En masse.