Reviewed by Jeffrey B. Remz
good, old-fashioned guitar pull typically has something to offer everyone.
And that pretty much summed up the Songs & Stories night of music with Dylan Scott, Danielle Bradbery, Matt Stell and Hailey Whitters in the first show for each in the new year.
Over the course of 90 minutes, Scott, Bradbery, Stell and Whitters offered one song at a time, sometimes with a bit of a story behind it. Each was seated (Whitters got off of her stool for her closing song, the wonderful "Everything She Ain't") accompanied by their own acoustic guitarist in a typically low-key, interactive affair where no one artist had to carry the night.
That's not to say that each one couldn't, although in varying degrees. The stage left side of the stage featuring Scott and Bradbery, the singers with the greatest vocal power. A playful Scott and his soulful drawl and supple baritone was a standout singer. Scott acknowledged that his wheelhouse is writing love songs and seemed to underscore that with songs and comments about – and sometimes at the expense of – his wife, who he's known since he's 15.
While he poked fun at her about her getting dolled up for a trip to the dentist while he was in Boston and further chiding her for recognizing Stell during a cell call to her from the stage, he also underscored that his closing number and first big hit, "My Girl," was about her.
Scott's a small town guy at heart as evidenced by his unrecorded "Too Good To Us," about going home again. Scott may not be a country trailblazer, but he's very good at what he does.
Bradbery does not have the joie de vivre personality of Scott – she was on the serious side, but her vocal chops were something else. The winner of Season 4 of The Voice was one of those singers who seems to sing with very little effort.
Bradbery's seriousness came through in her songs, which were not simple love ditties. Maybe the cold got to her as she came out in a long jacket that seemed more like a bathrobe. The 26-year-old Texan admitted she was cold, but her voice has a lot of white hot fire power.
One might think that her closing song, "A Special Place," would be your typical feel good love song. That would be the case if that special place included "hell." And based on Bradbery's delivery, that was doubtlessly where the guy was going.
The lanky – he's 6-7 – Stell has benefitted from having hits, particularly the closing "Pray For You" with good wordplay and "Everywhere But On." He was at his most heartfelt with "That Ain't Me No More," a song (HARDY was one of its writers) lamenting the girl lost despite giving up the whiskey and short fuse.
Stell does everything well enough – from singing very good songs to a likable stage presence – but also lacked a uniqueness that Bradbery and Scott enjoyed. At the very least, Stell showed versatility.
As for Whitters, her strength is her writing. The Iowan's career is on the rise with a few worthy releases ("The Dream" and "Raised") under her belt. Of the four artists, Whitters hewed to a far more traditional country approach. That was made clear from the start with "Fillin' My Cup."
She pretty much stayed in that vein with follow-up songs "Plain Jane" and "How Far Can It Go." The latter also showed Whitters' vocal limitation. She segued into Trisha Yearwood's signature song, "She's In Love With the Boy." Not so sure that was a smart move because she doesn't come close to having the vocal dexterity of Yearwood.
This was a night to enjoy a little bit of a lot of artists in a short amount of time. The cause was right as about $29,000 was raised for St. Jude's Hospital in Memphis, Tenn. by radio station WBWL, aka "The Bull." And there was something to enjoy each of the artists. To their credit, all wanted you wishing for something more.