Heavy Horses prove themselves crowd pleasers at JJ’s in Northboro

Dawn Sweet

Heavy Horses made one of their rotation stops at JJ’s Sports Bar & Grill in Northboro, Massachusetts last night. Their searing performances kept their audience cheering and dancing for three hours. Heavy Horses is an all star band made up of singers and musicians from the Worcester areas’ best. Vocalists Craig Rawding from Delta Generators, Dawn Sweet from Pet Rock, and Tom Hurley from Drunken Uncles and Joe Rockhead took turns singing lead and backing vocals. Guitarists Roger Lavallee(Curtain Society) and John Donovan(The Bees Knees), bassist Ron Mominee(Curtain Society), and drummer Ed Barnett(Genesis Club) played precise, emotive music underneath the vocal performances. Keyboardist Mike Warren was absent.

Opening with Grand Funk Railroad’s “American Band,” Heavy horses were off to a heavy, rocking start. Mominee had a fulsome, bulbous low end underneath the rambunctious driving guitars. Singer Tom Hurley had the kind of belty vocal approach that projected well over the spacious sports bar. Segue into The Doobie Brothers’ “China Grove” and a vibrant chorus made people want to sing along. Roger Lavallee nailed the striking lead guitar thing during the bridge, making for more rocking fun.
Craig Rawding and Dawn Sweet traded off marvelously on the Head East classic “Never Been Any Reason.” Lavallee played the intro well on his synthesizer, which was pretty good for a guy who learned it only two hours before show time. The old Faces hit “Stay With Me” sounded raw and effective with John Donovan’s slide guitar giving it a real cry out melodic phrase. Hurley here was appropriately raspy
Sweet did her magic on Fleetwood Mac’s “Go Your Own Way,” her beautiful voice full of edge, elegance, and power. Lavallee chimed in with his lead guitar solo, his notes ringing with authenticity, feeling, and wiry precision. Sweet next applied her sterling voice to Bruce Springsteen’s penned Patti Smith tune “Because The Night.”
“Radar Love” by Golden Earring found Rawding applying his powerhouse voice at belting out over the rollicking, thunderous rhythm section. The band rode this one with a hefty gallop and played their feisty guitar parts well. A real treat was the 1979 Dire Straits break out hit “Sultans Of Swing.” Rawding’s smoother, darker timbre just flowed over the amicable groove. Both guitarists here splendidly wove that mesh of lead and rhythm to recreate what once dominated the airwaves with its, back in the day, fresh guitar sound.

John Donovan

The chick singer the audience couldn’t get enough of was soon back on stage singing Heart’s “Barracuda.” Sweet’s edgy side came across well in this aggressive rocker, taking no prisoners as she sang girlish and tough at the same time. The guitars too made this come alive, a rip-roaring, three-dimensional rock number.

Foghat’s “Slow Ride” gave Hurley a chance to make one hell of an impression with his silver throated timbre. Heavy Horses certainly stirred pleasant memories of partying to this back in the 1970s and 1980s. The guitars were on fire, igniting an edgy, electrifying current you could feel from across the room. Changing pace a bit, The Pretenders’ “Talk Of The Town” showed how well Heavy Horses could nail the pace of a solid, mid-tempo rocker. Sweet captured the moody sing-song pace and fulfilled its need for self-restrained emotion.
Though it’s unusual for a cover band to play Blue Oyster Cult, Heavy Horses pulled off “Don’t Feat The Reaper,” its brittle rhythm guitar and stinging lead guitar parts perfected to spine chilling horror movie effect. Crowd pleaser “Ballroom Blitz” by The Sweet showcased Rawding capturing the electric glam rock of the 1970s. He was also quite the screamer in between verses and frenetic guitar workouts.
Switching gears, Heavy Horses went into the sweet country blues of Marshall Tucker Band’s “Can’t You See.” Chirpy lead guitar melodies and an old fashioned harmonica line gave this one plenty of pleasant seasoning. Of course, Heavy Horses doesn’t stay mellow for very long. Rawding rocked Mountain’s “Mississippi Queen” with Ms. Sweet kicking ass on cowbell. It was a hefty chunk of 70s’s rock with thumping rhythm section drive and wild guitar. “Ramble On” let Rawding travel from mellow beauty to itchy guitar majesty then back to pretty again until it was time for the ride out. Led Zep got some lady power when Sweet, always at home with the heavy duty stuff, took over the microphone to deliver “Rock And Roll.” Whirling guitar leads, sharp and effective, were delivered with rambunctious edge.

Roger Lavallee

The rhythm section showed what they were made of during The Who’s “Won’t Get Fooled Again.” Fluid, bombastic, and precise, they set the launching pad for Hurley’s muscular vocal assertions. His belt was charged and crackling with power and authority. The guitars cried out with that anthem zeal that expressed an entire generation’s need for freedom and truth.

Heavy Horses must have a taste for country rock. They went into The Outlaws “There Goes Another Love Song.” Hurley wrapped his voice around the lyrics with warm and affection while a beautiful guitar line whistled out a respectful take on the original.
Switching gears once again, Heavy Horsed swung into Rush’s 1980 hit “Spirit Of Radio.” Aside from being much prettier than Geddy Lee, the fetching Sweet nailed the high pitched vocal line while the band captured the motion that rides through each section.
“Bad Company’s “Can’t Get Enough” allowed Rawding to show that rock front men can be soulful and Bad finger’s “No Matter What” let Hurley soften up into a pop rock projection. Next was a real treat. Heavy Horses traded up their instruments so drummer Barnett could sing and play guitar on Neil Young’s “Cinnamon Girl.” Barnett is a guitarist/vocalist in his spare time, so he had no qualms about this switch-a roo.

Ron Mominee

Z. Z. Top’s “Tush” let Donovan shine in his searing guitar phrase, and a dual guitar rhythm gave Ted Nugent’s “Cat Scratch Fever” a huge, in your face delivery.  While they were on heavier songs, Heavy Horses jumped into Heart’s “Crazy On You,” with Sweet handling the huge, rangy, aggressive vocalizations.

.38 Special’s “Rockin’ Into The Night” chugged along mightily before AC/DC’s “All Night Long” forced Lavallee to bust out a bad ass guitar solo, stabbing into the night with his steely, metallic crunch. A galloping groove from the bass and drums department made Joe Walsh’s “Walk Away a fun, likable number. A better magic, though, came during J. Geil’s Band’s “House Party,” complete with screaming guitars and harmonica making the train pull into the station, blasting the roof off with those familiar phrases.
Heavy Horses officially closed out with the kitschy fun of Cheap Trick’s “Surrender” then encored with Blackmore’s “Rainbow,”  Lavallee carrying the song with his worthy take on the popular 1980 guitar line.
Heavy Horses put on quite a show. They played a lot of classic rock faves, including many you might not think a cover band would or could play. Fans of classic rock and good musicianship won’t ever regret taking in a night of Heavy Horses.