Material: Marking the release of her new album Camino Real, Mary Gatchell debuted her latest collection of pop/soul songs. Though adhering closely to the pop/soul model, an occasional island feel wafts through some of her material, adding sonic variety and a laid-back vibe. Innocuous sentiments about love in its various stages, of either blissfulness or pending disarray, make up most of the songs’ lyrics. By far, the most infectious and memorable is “Casualty Of You,” with its punchy island rhythm, and the mantra-like repetition of the title. “Lovers In Love,” a lilting, moderate-tempo number wins you over when it hits a very satisfying unexpected jazz chord at the end of the first verse.
Musicianship: Gatchell has strong vocal chops imbued with a sweetness that results in a more palatable sound. She is proficient on piano, using an electric keyboard instead of an acoustic, which better suits her style of music. Having the album’s producer leading the band at this show was a major plus, since the songs could then be performed as they were intended. At times sounding like a throwback to the ‘80s, some arrangements could be enhanced to sound a bit more edgy and modern without losing their effectiveness or Gatchell’s individuality.
Performance: A confident and poised performer who seemed comfortable in her own skin, Gatchell (to her credit) doesn’t chase any trends. Her musical choices seem to be a natural fit. While not overly solicitous of audience attention, she knows when to engage with the crowd and when to get on with the music. She enlisted the audience
to sing along in “Casualty Of You,” a perfect opportunity to bring them into the fold. Her ballads, though, could have used more nuance and tenderness, which would bring out the vulnerability that the words suggest. Bringing one big cover song into the set would have further aligned the artist with a known quantity, raising her perceived place on the music spectrum and bolstering her own material at the same time.
Summary: Mary Gatchell delivers a solid show, well-rehearsed, animated and engaging. Adding more edge to some of the arrangements, along with adding some known quantity would expand the show’s reach. With their feel-good energy and general appeal, this is an act that would work well in other settings in addition to a showcase venue.