Material: Detroit by-way-of-NYC native Sam Sherwin is now a New Jersey-based singer/ songwriter who brings a wealth of emotional gravitas and personal experience to his songs. His action-packed original set features a seamless cross-section of tunes that run the gamut from ballads and blues to straight-up rockers. Of particular note are selections like the jazzy and bop-filled “Get Close,” the rousing rockabilly-flavored “Lick Your Lips” and the introspective Dylan-esque “Well OK.” Sherwin is a compelling lyricist, with tales of inner struggle and love lost and found filtered through his unique poetic lens.
Musicianship: Sherwin’s name may be up on the marquee, but this quartet is a band in every sense of the word. The rhythm section of bassist Bert Blind and drummer John Oakes is intuitive and air-tight. Blind has a smooth round-wound tone, and his ability to lock into a variety of grooves with Oakes is impressive. Conversely, Oakes keeps it strong and steady as keyboardist Peter Vitalone and leader Sherwin volley solos and ideas back and forth. Vitalone brings a rustic and ornate aspect to the overall sound, with lush accordion swells and lithe melodica passages. Sherwin boasts a beefy and illustrative tenor accompanied by wicked Telecaster leads and solid rhythm work.
Performance: The band erupted out of the gate with the vibrant and swinging “Get Close.” They began on an appropriate high note and kept the set’s energy evenly balanced throughout. Sherwin was a gracious and personable frontman who seemed to connect with the crowd between songs. The pacing of the band was natural and relaxed, with smooth transitions; whether it was the mid tempo Springsteen-inflected “You Got it Wrong” or the cinematic jail house romp “Sittin’ on a Bench.” Also, Sherwin and Vitalone’s call-and-response rapport during solos became infectious.
Summary: The Sam Sherwin Band seem to draw from a rich musical well occupied by everyone from the Kinks to the Rolling Stones, David Bowie, Buddy Guy, the Band and the Pretenders, among others. And Sherwin writes catchy and captivating tunes that not only reflect these classic rock and blues influences, but reveal a humanistic and pensive point of view as well. This is music that is extremely well crafted and supremely played, easily enjoyed with a beer at a local pub or under the footlights of some capacity-filled theater or concert hall.
The Players: Sam Sherwin, lead vocals, guitar, harmonica; Peter Vitalone, accordion, melodica, backup vocals; Bert Blind, bass, backup vocals; John Oakes, drums.
Photo by Eric A. Harabadian
City: Garwood, NJ
The Sam Sherwin Band - "Lick Your Lips"
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