Players: Geoff Gross, guitar, vocals; Amanda Dillon, vocals
Material: Merlot Embargo is a duo hailing from Southern California, playing both originals and covers on acoustic guitar. The covers are from a wide variety of groups and bands and the songs are rearranged to fit the acoustic format very nicely. The originals are just that—original. This duo doesn’t sound like anyone else. Catchy hooks and good vocals keep you interested throughout as the pair can be likened to a contemporary James Taylor and Carole King.
Musicianship: Gross is an exceptional guitar player who leads on every song. His prowess comes through particularly on “Proud Mary” by Creedance Clearwater Revival. Playing it unnervingly fast, he hits every note at just the right time. He has great self-control and uses that power to make the tempo of the song work for him. The vocals are good as well. Dillon hits some pretty high high’s and some bass-like lows with ease and makes it look and sound effortless.
Performance: Gross and Dillon were both into the performance, seasoned vets who like what they do. They are fun to watch and that in turn makes it fun for the audience. Raising money for a worthy cause is also very commendable. Breonna Taylor in Kentucky and George Floyd in Minnesota are both definitely worthy causes and it shows off the healing that our country so desperately needs.
Summary: Songs like “For What It’s Worth” by Buffalo Springfield and “Where is the Love” by the Black Eyed Peas take on a whole new meaning in this time of protest, revolt and riot. These songs take you back to moments in our nation’s history that cannot be ignored and at the same time they bring to light the atrocities happening today. When you’re done reminiscing to the visuals and sounds of yesteryear, you can look to the here and now with original Merlot Embargo material like “Head Above Water,” “Aware,” and “Another Thing Coming.” All well written, inspirational songs of optimism and hope that will have you wondering what’s in store for our nation’s future.