Reviewed by Jeffrey B. Remz
ean McConnell may have left Massachusetts a good 25 years ago, but there was no doubt about what this night meant to him. This was a homecoming for the Nashville-based singer/songwriter. His parents, who moved back to the Bay State from Georgia, other family and folks he said he hadn't seen since he moved, were in the house of the small club.
McConnell, who is touring behind the February release of "Secondhand Smoke" after two albums on Rounder, has a warm, inviting voice, which does his well-penned material much justice.
And in the case of a singer/songwriter, that's what counted most - perhaps never more so at the very end of the 90-minute set where McConnell went solo acoustic for a few songs.
McConnell dedicated a song he said he hadn't played in a long time, "Old Brown Shoes," to his grandfather. The song weaves the tail of the influence of his grandfather and, in effect, how McConnell misses him. The song painted pictures as the best of songs ought to. This was simply a poignant song to end the night.
So was the song closing out the regular set that he dedicated to his daughter, "Everything's That Good," replete with images.
A few more songs were of similar ilk from McConnell, who also has enjoyed some success landing cuts with country artists like Brothers Osborne (the title track of "Pawn Shop," which he did not play), Tim McGraw, David Nail and Eli Young Band. There was no mention of his songwriting success. McConnell didn't need to, though, because he stood on his own without glomming onto more famous performers.
Much credit to sidekick Ben Alleman, who doubled on both drums and keyboards. Interestingly, he actually showed considerable skill in playing both instruments at the same time - both one-handed. Caleb Elliott filled out the sound with his bass.
Elliott also enjoyed a well-done stint as the opening act. The Louisiana native just released his debut, "Forever to Fade," on Single Lock, the label started, in part, by John Paul White. It's easy to see why because Elliott has a passel of worthy songs. They don't hit you over the head. They're not necessarily built for radio, but they are sturdy and well conceived.
As a probable unknown, Elliott also was not afraid to tell the crowd about his small town background as the son of a preacher man from a small town.
Elliott was a welcome choice in setting the stage for what would be a strong night for singer/songwriters.