Friday, February 08, 2013

Terrific trio of Americana artists impress at Alta

Rock 'n' Roll poet Michael Ubaldini
The scenic coastal community of Newport Beach, California might not be a likely place to host an Americana-minded "Outlaws of Folk" concert series, but don't tell that to the discerning audience that packed inside Alta Coffee on Feb. 7 to catch acoustic sets from Michael Ubaldini, David Serby and Dave Gleason.

Ubaldini, who hosts the popular monthly series, typically performs with his tremendous honky tonk outfit Michael and the Lonesome Playboys at significantly larger venues across the Southland. However, the "Outlaws of Folk" series gives the Fountain Valley resident a chance to present his literate songs in a stripped down solo setting while also providing him the chance to invite top-tier pals to perform with him on the same bill. This night was particularly special with Serby (who I last caught at the Stagecoach Festival in Indio in May 2011) and Gleason (who recently relocated from Nashville, TN to Pasadena, CA) joining in for what ultimately made for a brilliant night of original acoustic music.

David Serby
Serby led things off with an eight-song set that featured material from past albums, as well as songs from an upcoming project that blends his roots music style with hard charging Rockpile-styled power pop. He kicked things off with the upbeat "Pharaohs" and effortlessly continued with a beautiful ballad "True Love." Armed with an expressive baritone, Serby sang all of his songs with power and nuanced feeling. Highlights included several of the great songs from his last album, 2011's Poor Man's Poem, including the gorgeous "Lay Down My Colt" and potent "Evil Men." You can get more details on Serby at his CDBaby page.

Ubaldini also used the occasion of an eight-song set to debut several new songs slated for a future album release. Particularly memorable was the lovely country ballad "Rosewood Night" as well as the fast-paced "Sweet Old Riddle" and rollicking "The Outlaw Kind." Accompanied by his acoustic guitar, he also added virtuoso harmonica play on the winning "Jean Harlow." He closed his set with the rousing rocker "Walk Through Fire." Ubaldini crafts songs that are both accessible and intelligent; the icing on the sonic cake is his straightforward presentation of those gems with a musical and lyrical depth that draws easy comparisons with the depth of Bruce Springsteen and John Mellencamp. But the voice is clearly Ubaldini's own. Visit Ubaldini's official Web site for more information.

Dave Gleason closed out the night at Alta Coffee
Closing out the strong night of music making was Gleason, who impressed with his authentic country sound. His sweet vocals and ability to tame classic influences reminded this writer of the craft of Dwight Yoakam and The Mavericks albeit that sort of magic came with the sole support of his own stellar guitar playing. His beautiful country folk tune "Radio 1965" and more buoyant "Blue Side of the World" (both off his Turn and Fade album) were dazzling. Gleason closed the magical night with a sparse and persuasive reworking of Springsteen's "Downbound Train." Visit Gleason's official site here to get more details.

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