Canadian singer Jody Raffoul gave his son Billy Raffoul a guitar for his 10th birthday. When Billy was in high school in his home town of Leamington, Ontario, he watched his dad headline a show for 4,000 people at his school’s stadium. Although the youth already had written songs, this moment inspired him to become a performer. At age 16, Billy bought his first real guitar. His first paid performance was playing to long-haul drivers at a local truck stop; in time he began playing the regional club circuit. Singing on some demos for Kid Rock became his entry into a professional career in music. Billy Raffoul released his six-song debut EP, 1975, on June 22, 2018. Raffoul now splits his time between Nashville and Los Angeles where, in between playing shows, he has been collaborating with other songwriters and assembling his forthcoming debut album.
Performing solo on acoustic and electric guitar at Mercury Lounge tonight, Billy Raffoul had no choice but to be bold and forthright with his music. He did not use backing tracks or rhythm machines, so the performance was all about what he could do with a microphone, six strings, and a whole lot of charisma. A thick mane of long hair, which he pushed to one side and then the other, strikingly good looks, and a raspy, achy singing voice that seemingly articulated a yearning for understanding and companionship drew many women to the edge of the stage. Indeed, the singer-songwriter’s more sentimental lyrics revealed wounds and heartaches, leaving him reflective and vulnerable. Grounded in humility and earthiness, Raffoul’s soulful singing helped capture terse storylines with compelling credibility, inviting the listeners to feel the movements with him. It will not be long before Raffoul’s honeyed delivery draws a swarm of bees.
Boz Scaggs/The Town Hall/Nov. 14, 2018
William Scaggs, better known by his professional name, Boz Scaggs, was born in Canton, Ohio, but was raised first in McAlester, Okla. and then in Plano, Texas. Immersing himself in the blues, rhythm and blues, and early rock ‘n’ roll, he learned to play guitar at age 12, and in 1959 he became the vocalist for Steve Miller‘s band, the Marksmen. The pair later attended university together in Madison, Wisconsin, and played in local blues bands like the Ardells and the Fabulous Knight Trains. After university, Scaggs traveled through Europe, the Middle East and Asia, briefly joining the burgeoning rhythm and blues scene in London, England, and eventually settling in Stockholm, Sweden, where he recorded his debut solo album. Returning to the U.S. in 1967, Scaggs joined the Steve Miller Band in San Francisco. Scaggs appeared on the band’s first two albums, then left in 1968 to restart his solo career. His career peaked with 1976’s multi-million-selling Silk Degrees. Scaggs’ 19th solo album, Out of the Blues, was released on July 27, 2018. He has remained in Napa County, Calif. despite losing his home in the 2017 wildfires.
Backed by a band of six musicians, plus a couple of guest spots by guitarist Doyle Bramhall II, Scaggs performed his signature blend of soft rock soaked in mellow rhythm and blues, but he and the band also melded extended blues and jazz jams into the mix. Indeed, Scaggs’ three most recent albums were steeped in the blues, and the two albums before that were jazz ventures, so outside of the obligatory hits, much of Scaggs’ set spun a deeper, richer exploration of America’s musical heritage. Scaggs’ smooth, distinct vocals rang familiar as they carried the mild melodies, while Scaggs, Bramhall and Mike Miller traded guitar licks and the rest of the band provided rhythm and flow, punctuated by several keyboard and saxophone fills. Scaggs, now in his fifth decade of performing music live, provided a classy and musically rich set that was far more than a series of recreated hits.
Richard Lloyd/The Bowery Electric/Nov. 15, 2018
Richard Lloyd was born in Pittsburgh and was raised in New York City. Inspired by watching the Beatles perform on television’s The Ed Sullivan Show in 1964, Lloyd began playing the drums and later learned to play guitar from a friend who was a protégé of Jimi Hendrix. In 1969, Lloyd’s parents moved to Montclair, N.J., and he moved with them, but then relocated for two years to Boston, where he played his first public performance, sitting in with John Lee Hooker. In 1971, Lloyd hung around the music scene in Los Angeles but returned to New York City in 1973 to join what was becoming the first wave of punk rock. He heard Tom Miller (who became Tom Verlaine) playing guitar at an audition night, and in 1974 the two formed Television, a band that helped launch the soon to be legendary rock club CBGB’s. Finding success elusive in the United States, Television disbanded in 1978, and Verlaine and Lloyd launched solo careers. Now based in Chattanooga, Tenn. Lloyd released his eighth solo album, The Countdown, on Nov. 2, 2018, the same day that his 2017 memoir, Everything Is Combustible: Television, CBGB’s and Five Decades of Rock and Roll, was released as a paperback.
Richard Lloyd has played the Bowery Electric several times in the past, but this was an album release show for The Countdown, so the set list was radically different from previous performances. Lloyd, singing and playing lead guitar, backed by guitarist Bob Hatter, bassist Dave Roe, and drummer Steve Ebe, performed all 10 tracks from the new album, slicing the set in half with Television’s “Marquee Moon.” Forty years beyond the demise of Television, Lloyd’s set was designed to spotlight the present rather than dwell in the past. As he has done in recent years, Lloyd handled most of the lead guitar work himself, foregoing Television’s trademark guitar pairings, instead showcasing his technical guitar proficiency amidst a fusion of garage rock and power pop hooks. Lloyd’s intricate yet fluid guitar licks demonstrated how he remains a student of his instrument, constantly learning clever ways to match tones and timbers. Overall, Lloyd’s new music was a not-too-distant cousin of the music of Television, sometimes raucous or chaotic, sometimes more psychedelic or atonal, but always powered by strong guitar lines. Lloyd’s vocals faltered, but the experimental prowess of his extended jams made for an impressive performance.
The Doobie Brothers/The Beacon Theatre/Nov. 16, 2018
Vocalist/guitarist Tom Johnston was born in Visalia, Calif. and attended college in San Jose, Calif. There he founded a power trio called Pud in 1970. Vocalist/guitarist Patrick Simmons, who had performed locally as a solo artist and in an acoustic trio called Scratch, joined Pud later that year. Simmons’ fingerstyle guitar approach complemented Johnston’s rhythmic rhythm and blues strumming. After several personnel changes, the band became the Doobie Brothers. Johnston left the group in 1975 due to precarious health conditions, and was replaced by Michael McDonald, whose interest in soul music changed the band’s sound until it broke up in 1982. The Doobie Brothers reformed in 1987 with Johnston returning to the band, with occasional contributions from McDonald. The Doobie Brothers sold more than 40 million albums worldwide, with its greatest success in the 1970s. The band is led presently by Johnston, Simmons and guitar/pedal steel/banjo/fiddle player John McFee, who first joined the band in 1979. The Doobie Brothers’ 14th and most recent studio album is 2014’s Southbound.
The Doobie Brothers headlined two nights at the Beacon Theatre, accompanied by keyboardist Bill Payne, bassist John Cowan, drummer Ed Toth, percussionist Marc Quiñones, and a trio of horn players. The ensemble performed the Doobie Brothers’ second and third albums, 1972’s Toulouse Street and 1073’s The Captain and Me albums in their entirety for the first time, plus a couple of select hits for the encore. For the band, this meant performing songs that reportedly were never before performed live, and that the entire set would predate the Michael McDonald era that began in 1975. For the audience, this meant not seeing the band purely as a hit machine, but experiencing a broader perspective that exposed the band’s early history through deep cuts. Foregoing the band’s later blue-eyed soul and adult contemporary material, the sets alternated mainstream arena rock ‘n’ roll with songs that leaned on folk, country, blues and boogie. Johnston sang most of the songs well, the many musicians showcased their exceptional talents, and the old songs came alive with jams steeped in American musical roots. Not every song turned out to be memorable, but as a whole, the concert showed the Doobie Brothers to be an exceptionally dynamic rock ‘n’ roll band.