Live Review: Ricky Stein at Rockwood Music Hall in New York, NY

Material: Straddling Americana, folk and country, Ricky Stein delivered a set that was both spirited and uplifting. Perhaps the perfect antidote to what was about to hit New York City, when, just a few days later, all live music would be shut down due to the Coronavirus. But in this tightly packed, intimate venue, the audience embraced the Austin transplant, who brings to bear his love for roots music and the historical influences that continue to shape his career.

“American Dreaming,” by far, the most universal and poignant of the set, is a clever spin on the American Dream. Though the majority of us aspire to achieve it, it is often illusive: Early in the morning before the break of dawn tumble out of bed and turn the radio on/ one more cup of coffee is a moment alone/ sounds of the working week coming on strong/ nights can be redeeming…/ all the gold now is traded for green/slowly fall victim to the daily routine…/ lost in American dreaming.

In “I’m A Stone,” Stein laments love lost: Well, the days are just a number now, spend my days mostly trying not to feel anything at all…I’m alone I’m a stone and I’m rollin’ once again. Also in Stein's set were several Townes Van Zandt songs, which aligned seamlessly with his own.

Musicianship: Backing bands often serve to fill out the front person’s sound, but in Stein’s case, his instrumental choices not only matched the material, they enhanced it. Employing an acoustic bass and pedal steel guitar added warmth and dimension to the musical landscape. Stein’s vocals are consistent and pleasantly scrappy.

Performance: Radiating sincerity, his roster of material was indeed user-friendly. But in a set that’s only 45 minutes long, there is understandably a tendency to squeeze as much music into it as possible. However, slightly shaving it down in favor of sharing his story (everyone has one) will let the audience know what makes you unique as an artist and as a human being. Undoubtably, there are some meaty ones behind Stein’s music that would be worth unleashing.

Summary: Stein is a solid performer with songs the listener can connect to musically and lyrically. His choice of several covers by a comparable artist further connects him to his genre. Sharing more of his personal narrative and how it relates to the material will capture even more fans. You can catch Stein’s recent YouTube livestream here: youtube.com/user/rstein84.

Contact: rstein84@gmail.com

Web: rickystein.com

Players: Ricky Stein, acoustic guitar, vocals, harmonica; Ben Tiberio, standup bass; Justin Camerer, pedal steel guitar