Livestream Review: A.J. Croce

Livestream City Winery • Nashville, TN

Contact: Jeff Delia, 72 Music Mgmt., jeff.delia@gmail.com

Web: ajcrocemusic.com

Players: A.J. Croce, vocals, piano, guitar; Garrett Stoner, guitar; David Barard, bass, backup vocals; Gary Mallaber, drums

Material: This performance is a retrospective of Croce’s 30-year career, thus far. And what a career it’s been! He is an artist who is not locked in to one form of music, per se. But if it’s rock, funk, blues or boogie—an innate and transparent spirit and soul is at the core and shines through. The intrepid singer-songwriter includes his very first and last collaborative efforts, with the late, great Leon Russell. The set-list is also noteworthy for deep cuts by Sam Cooke, Allen Toussaint, The Beach Boys and Sonny Terry & Brownie McGhee. The streetwise “Easy Money” and fan favorite “That’s Me at the Bar” define Croce’s ability to spin a good story.

Musicianship: With his raspy, distinctive, well-tempered singing voice, the soft-spoken Croce grabs you from the get-go! He and the piano are one and he modulates his vocals, along with the keys, to effectively provide each song with what it needs. Whether it’s raucous major to minor runs or a delicate, thoughtful passage, Croce masters the 88s. The singer-songwriter also doubles on guitar and proves to be a formidable finger stylist as well. Lead guitarist Garrett Stoner is tasteful and defines the role of an empathic, yet engaging team player. David Barard is a strong pocket bassist and fine supportive vocalist. Gary Mallaber rounds out the ensemble, with subtle beats and a firm, relaxed groove.

Performance: Croce played a number of selections from his latest album, By Request. Right away you could sense a familial comfort between the band members on stage. The leader would introduce the songs and share personal anecdotes about the subject matter or composing process behind a lot of the original material. It almost took on an air of sitting around listening to the group in someone’s basement or living room. But when they’d kick the downbeat, it was go time! Highlights like The Beach Boys’ “Sail on Sailor” received a light and swinging jazz treatment. Allen Toussaint’s “Brickyard Blues” revealed Croce’s facility for New Orleans-type funk. Equally noteworthy was a rocking Jim Croce classic, “Rapid Roy,” and a faithful rendition of the show finale “Stay with Me” by The Faces.

Summary: A.J. Croce has been in the business over 30 years and has amassed a fine body of work. His ability to cover so many different musical styles and still maintain his imprint on them is his strength.