Anacon Hall, Monmouth University
September 8, 2011
WEST LONG BRANCH—North Carolina is no slouch when it comes to producing great songwriters and musicians. Performers such as Ryan Adams, Tori Amos, Ben Folds, Eric Church and Mitch Easter are just a few top acts that have rolled out of this great state. And while Jason Adamo hasn’t reached some of the notoriety as these folks have, he is well on his way to becoming a member of those musical household names. Adamo and band play unpretentious rock and roll, flavored with many influential heroes and experiences of life.
Their latest CD, titled Transistor, is an intricate and arabesque stroll through Adamo’s country-tinged pop style and musical interpretation from his great band. The band stopped at Monmouth University’s Anacon Hall for an hour-long set of music from Transistor.
Anacon Hall can be a difficult venue with its granite floors and cement block walls but the sound was dead-on tonight and except for a few rough points when the band was blazing, all could be heard and understood. Adamo and band went through much of the new album, including “Without You,” a song that recalls influential vibes of Coldplay and Three Doors Down.
It’s actually very interesting to see the wide swing of Adamo’s vocal style on Transistor. This is a guy who can soar falsetto high like Jeff Buckley and then peel the paint off the walls with his gritty, soul-powered Joe Cocker tone. Another highlight of the disk is “Far Away From Here,” a song about that age-old frustration of realizing that running from a love gone wrong isn’t as easy as it sounds. Relatable and poignant, Adamo and crew lay down tasteful guitars, bass and drums interspersed with Dobro and other stringed oddities to produce a melodic rich hit along the influential lines of Third Eye Blind.
“Raleigh Nights” swings into alternative country territory somewhere along the lines of Eric Church and Social Distortion. With its wide-open, blue-collar drinking feel, “Raleigh Nights” teams with infectious backbeats, acoustic guitars and harmonica accoutrements provided by Fabio Consani. Adamo’s vocal is perfect for this type of material. I see a lot of rockers leaning more towards country than rock these days, and it is apparent that this band has made that same pilgrimage and has done it well. “Raleigh Nights” would be my choice for radio gold on Transistor.
“Bring It Back” is another great mix of influential performers like Cheap Trick, Peter Gabriel and Live. Jason Adamo is a varied writer and it’s interesting to see him throw so much rock, pop and soul into one project and make it all sound coherent. The instrumentation flips between four on the floor rock to intricate and arabesque beats along the lines of Zeppelin or Emerson, Lake And Palmer before settling back into familiar rock and roll territory.
Another notable song on Transistor is “Galaxy.” This soul-influenced pop song is a rollercoaster of melody and dynamic intricacies. The verses and choruses are tinted in Sade prose with Adamo reaching deep inside to throw out passionate and soaring melody lines. Guitarist extraordinaire Doug Casteen drops the bridge down into some slick, Beatles-inspired guitar lines that spiral and weave under Adamo’s stormy vocal attack. Multi-instrumentalist John Briggs lobs precise synth and drum bombs all over this song’s map.
The show was largely unattended as it was a last minute addition, and that’s a shame because this is yet another visiting neighbor that you should see live here in one of the many Jersey venues that offer great music. For more on the band, the CD and their mission, head over to jasonadamo.com.
Outside The Box: Bridge
Outside The Box is a New Jersey band that follows in the footsteps of their city-by-the-shore idols. They embrace the sounds of Bruce Springsteen, John Eddie, Southside Johnny, and they do it to the letter. But they also display a flair for mixing blues, pop and rough and tumble rock and roll into their personal sound. Their current record, Bridge, was produced by keyboardist and Southside Johnny And The Asbury Jukes member Jeff Kazee for Schaeffer Records.
The group released Bridge this summer to rave reviews and growing audiences from here to California. This is a band that is not content to sit on their hands and wait for fame to find them. They go out hunting for it. Recently featured as guest DJs on Sirius Radio’s E Street Show, they’ve been touted by all forms of press. But that shouldn’t be the main focus here. What I pay attention to is the band’s sound and the continuing musical development that they display.
Songs like “Love Is The Villian” stand out far from the common shore comparisons. While retaining that dirty Jersey vibe, it rocks with the rebellious spirit of Graham Parsons and Elvis Costello. Cafone’s raw and gritty vocal brings me back to the ‘80s when bands like John Cafferty and the Beaver Brown rubbed musical elbows with the likes of Bill Chinook and Norman Nardini.
Other standouts include the heavy backbeat dynamics of “I’m A Bridge.” Outside The Box reins it in here, down-stroking power guitars before releasing their combined musical fusion into the song’s bluesy bridge. Single line leads scream and wail pushing the B3 magic of Mark Masfield way out there. The production of Jeff Kazee is outstanding on this disc and just goes to show you what a band can accomplish when they listen to a musician with this level of experience.
“The Ballad Of Jackie Chan” bounces with an interesting Cars-meets-Graham Parker And The Rumour feel. Tight and tempered backing vocals make way for Cafone’s seething tone and lyrical delivery. The song thunders into the choruses as drummer Francis Valentino really drives this complex and instant classic home.
“So Confused” comes out of the reverb deep side of the gene pool, breaking into an anathematic chorus supported by that familiar Jersey organ blitzkrieg while the band lays down sizzling chord changes, drum patterns and overall support for Cafone’s melodic lines. Honest and passionate, I can see why this band has been instantly adopted by the guys that started the sound back in the day.
All in all, Bridge has 11 tunes that should appeal to the Bruce crowd and beyond. Like I said, Outside The Box embraces the shore sound and it shows in their music. But they also have the smarts not to put all their eggs in that proverbial basket. Bridgestands on its own musically, and that’s a success in my book. For more information on the CD and what Outside The Box is up to, head over to their site, outsidetheboxband.com.