Boyd USA – 7:am
I met Sal Boyd a few times and remember a seasoned demeanor and a knowledgeable musician who held his own when it came to talking music with jaded guys like me. So I was unquestionably acceptable when I was asked to attend a show at The Saint recently. While I was sure Boyd would be able to play, what I didn’t know was that he would be able to wow, and I ended up seeing one of those surprises that keep me doing this job.
Calm and reserved when standing about off stage, Boyd takes the shape of a musician far along on his course when he hits the limelight. A performer schooled with an invigorating and stylish presentation, Boyd is a concise author who knows how to direct a top-notch band and the possessor of that mysterious ability to focus even the most unruly following.
Boyd USA was out in celebratory support of the brand new record, 7:am. Featuring 10 strong tunes, 7:am is both inspiring and irrepressible in its delivery. Recorded in quick subsections, the record was worked out over at Joey DeMaio’s Shorefire Studios and was produced by Marc Swersky. Swersky has manned the board for luminaries such as Joe Cocker and Gedeon Luke, and had no problem coming in and taking full advantage of DeMaio’s tuned up rooms. With JD running the engineering, Swersky and Boyd followed the decision to simply throw the music in front of great players and record it in the old school way.
Working through each song with Boyd singing and playing acoustic or mandolin, the band—which featured notable hired guns such as Steve Holley (Paul McCartney & Wings) and James Williams (Gary Burton) on drums, Thad DeBrock (Aimee Mann, Spring Awakening) and Al Street (Sugarman 3, Charles Bradley) on guitars, Todd Caldwell (CS&N, Burlap To Cashmere) and Plinky Giglio on B3 and piano, and Swersky covering the bass—laid out the impressive foundation for 7:am.
I took a listen to the music, and the first song that stuck out was the backwoods smoke of “Four Leaves.” Boyd lists Jeff Buckley as influential on his music page, and that claim peeks in on “Four Leaves.” I think his ability at pacing a song and regulating the phrasing of his melody keeps him from falling too deep into the “influence zone” when it comes to anyone else, but the similarity is clearly there. The song rolls along with liquid and tumbling acoustics as the harmonica work of Kenny “Stringbean” Sorenson pierces the soundscaped air. Simplicity always works best with a clearly structured framework, and “Four Leaves” is as clean and clear as a fall day.
“Being Beautiful” is the focus of the disc and has all the designs of a college radio hit. Boyd doesn’t rush pocketed verses, and methodically builds opulent and memorable choruses. Melody, timing, instrumentation and hook all step into the picture as Boyd eases into his captain’s chair of administration like he’s been there all his life. If Boyd hits big, it’s going to come from his consideration to his absorption periods. Like some of his listed heroes, Boyd uses smart combinations of intimacy and vulnerability to gift wrap romanticized imagery and deliver it in a manner of his own. Drums shuffle metered gold underneath surging electric guitars, bass and flute. As it says on his music page, “The song is a pop masterpiece, full of the sort of pretty, sustained and extended chords and up-strumming that only the very cynical can resist.”
Another striking song is “Banjo.” An ode to the origins of the device, Boyd weaves much more than just geographical interests into his lyrics. Acoustic resonators grind into sustained and reverb-saturated overtones as Boyd lays out his “restorative” lesson to those Americans who think that crazed five-string instrument originally hails from Dixie. Poignant and precariously close to starting a riot in Tennessee, I believe Boyd’s point is that the world presents to the language of musicology as a whole. The pedal steel work grinds David Lindley gears like a Kenworth hauling ass for the boundary of a Jackson Brown concert. Sax work reminds me of Raphael Ravenscroft (Gerry Rafferty) and the vocal backing of Layonne Holmes is spot on.
I also enjoyed the R&B flavor of “American.” B3’s whirl in the background as guitars chirp blues triads underneath Boyd’s emotive vocal warm-ups. Drums kick into the easy, breezy pockets as bass bounces in diagonal dances of funked out pattern. Upbeat and celebratory, Boyd and crew cut free and head west in this free-for-all of vocalized roundabout and instrumental mêlée done up the true “American” way.
Boyd USA has a lot to say, and the world hasn’t kicked the fire out of him yet. His sound is fresh and unapologetic, and he writes songs that describe scenarios which most of us have long since swapped for Facebook updates on Miley Cyrus.
7:am is the early bird conqueror from Boyd this year, and I welcome his next musical move. Perhaps 7:am has real observations that we could take to heart. One thing I can say is that in a world saturated with the most adverse synergy ever, it can’t hurt to listen to the guy who believes that there’s still hope out there.
You can catch Boyd USA live at the Cake Shop (152 Ludlow St., New York, NY) on Feb. 23. For more knowledge, head over to boydusa.net.
TechFestFour – The Next Generation Of Engineers Brings Book Smarts To The Rock And Roll Stage
TechFestFour is a music celebration whose aim is to establish scholarship endowments for students interested in seeking a career in the industry specialized field. It’s also a great chance to showcase New Jersey talent from the very sophisticated ears of two up-and-coming Garden State sound engineers. TechFestFour is the brainchild of teachers/engineers Bill Bourke and Zack Slater, as well as the student body of OCVTS-PAA Tech Club.
Offering two special stages, TechFestFour will incorporate live acts that range from fresh, new musicians with limited experience to some of the very best in the entertainment market. All too often, young and susceptible artists are left to their own methods, plans and promotions. Sometimes a few get lucky, turning little garage and basement scenes into full-blown devoted followings, but most just drift aimlessly, finding the realities of being unprepared a cumbersome roadblock difficult to maneuver without a proper vehicle.
When asked why they do this, Bourke tells me, “I do this because it gives me chills. I’m so proud of what these students can do and how talented they are musically and technically, and to see it come together on time, all by children, and run smoother than some festivals I’ve seen, is an amazing experience. Bands have literally said, ‘This is some of the best sound I’ve ever heard or had.’ ‘This runs smoother than some of the big shows I’ve played, and I can’t believe it’s run by kids.’ I’d love to see this become a non-profit organization. I’d love to send students to college with as much money as I can. And I do it while laughing and smiling the whole way!”
Bourke and Slater’s ongoing journey into tutoring themselves and others has led to the development of a great grassroots idea in a very open-ended musical context.
TechFestFour will take place at the Brick Presbyterian Church in Brick, New Jersey, on March 15. Doors open at 2 p.m., with the first act kicking off at 3 p.m. Some of the great bands that will be playing are The Accidental Seabirds, Chris Rockwell & The Stickball Social Club, Matt Wade and Domenick Carino.
Tickets are $10 and the proceeds go to future scholarships for tech students. If you cannot attend, but would still like to donate, you can make a check out to OCVTS, memo “TechFestFour.” Or you can visit their website, techfestmusic.com, for up-to-date information and other ways to support.
For further information, contact Bill Bourke at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (732)-286-5678 x4133 and (732)-300-3987.