Live Review: Dennis Caravello at The 5 Spot, Nashville

Material: Although from Chicago, Dennis Caravello now calls Nashville home. Those disparate cultural spaces are embodied in his music, which blends jazzy feels with a Southern rocker’s perspective. According to his website, Caravello’s other favorite genres include soul and blues; those styles are also detectable in his compositions, which explore life’s quirky struggles. For example, “NY Blues” concerns drying out after a trip to The Big Apple resulted in too many $8 pitchers of beer. A version of a Guy Clark song about his wife slowly dying is equally laden with introspection and emotional bravery.

Musicianship: Caravello’s vocals are rich, like biscuits and gravy, powerful in their simplicity and elementary feel. On his instrument, he displays remarkable restraint. On bridges, it becomes clear he’s capable of fancier finger work. Despite this, his playing always remains in service of songcraft. An almost imperceptible shift between Allman Brothers and jazz combo happens when Andrew Steeno trades his over-the-shoulder bass for an upright. Drummer Zach Corder pounds the skins like a metronome, all in service to Caravello’s vision.

Performance: How much can an artist serve an audience when almost no listeners are present? The Windy City native clearly takes his musical duties seriously, even on a quiet Thursday night short on music-lovers. Although Caravello is both inherently likable and comfortable speaking on stage, more insight into his catalog and personal history would have been appreciated. For the set’s second number, he invited opener Katie Frank to join in, a seemingly unrehearsed decision. This collaboration was organic, as Caravello had just backed the pixie-like singer during her set.

Summary: Dennis Caravello is an adept and genuine performer. Without exception, his songwriting is warm and insightful. The question remains whether that’s enough to generate stronger accolades, as our stages are already brimming with powerhouse artists of commensurate and even higher capabilities. In the meantime, he seems content painting sonic designs with sincerity in Music City’s far-flung corners.

Contact: [email protected]

Web: denniscaravellomusic.com

Players: Dennis Caravello, guitar, vocals; Andrew Steeno, bass; Zach Corder, drums

Photo by Apple Kaufmann