Like chocolate and peanut butter, some great things go great together. Sweet Melissa, who usually plays out with blues guitarist Chris Stovall Brown, was the featured singer at last weekend’s Sunday Live Blues show at Terry O’Reilly’s Irish Pub in Newton, Massachusetts. Coincidentally, Chris Stovall Brown is usually part of the Sunday Live Blues house band at the Newton pub, so it was a sort of Sweet Melissa with Chris Stovall Brown reunion show.
After beginning their Sunday Live Blues with instrumental jamming, Brown went into “So Many Roads,” his creamy smooth voice riding the groove live a velvet glove. The song moved at a cruising speed that perfectly matched the vibe of the venue. Sweet Melissa (Melissa Barbosa), her voice true to her name, sang “Let’s Get It On” with svelte sophistication in her delivery while finding the soulful center of the piece.
It became clear that as the night went on, the place would be packed after about 90 minutes, as folks just keep coming in to hear the band while drinking and eating the good things Terry O’Reilly’s Irish Pub has to offer.
The rhythm section of bass guitarist Bob Vabulas and drummer Chris Anzalone found the hip swaying groove to “Chain Of Fools. Informal guest percussionist Melvin Francisco got it right as well. The three finely complimented Sweet Melissa’s rangy, honey smooth vocals and Brown’s eventual brisk, sharp phrase. Additionally, Stovall got to showcase his snappy chords and SM her cool drawl on the old blues number “Anyway You Want It.”
A hipster groove, an amicable guitar line, and SM’s svelte vocal brought “Son Of A Preacher Man” to life, reminding of the original’s vibe before Stovall Brown played his own flight of fancy take on the guitar melody.
Sweet Melissa was feeling it when she sang “Piece Of My Heart.” She made the crowd feel it too. This singer dug deep into the emotions of that number and delivered it to her Terry O’Reilly audience gift wrapped. If all that wasn’t enough, Sweet Melissa dove into an even deeper level of soul when she belted “At Last,” hitting her openings in the melody at the right places, right times.
Stovall swung his guitar phrase with the might of a pendulum during “Pride And Joy,” a tune that let him take his deeply ground out guitar phrase for a walk outside the pub before returning to finish the song. Someone might regret giving Stovall that remote device for his birthday or Christmas.
Sweet Melissa captured the freewheeling dignity of Dobie Gray’s “Drift Away,” letting her hair down, so to speak, with her neo hippie girl vibe. She also nailed the soulfulness of the Ike And Tina Turner version of “Proud Mary” before the band went into the more vigorous portion of the song.
Sweet Melissa showed some of her more subtle nuanced work through out the evening. Her vocal phrasing was very considerate during “Angel From Montgomery,” keeping this bar band cliché interesting with her emotive take. The rhythm section grew the number into something huge before Stovall’s character rich guitar phrase captured the audience’s attention on a whole other level.
Stovall riffed his way through Prince’s “Kiss” which complimented the rhythm section’s groove pumping action. The four got the dancers on the floor performing Stevie Wonder’s “Superstition,” especially Vabulas and Anzalone with their mighty helpings of knobby bass and pushy drums. “Walk All Over You” was another familiar gem the four had some fun with. Sweet Melissa’s rollicking vocal clip and Stovall Brown’s restless take on the guitar line kept it afloat.
Melvin Francisco came up to sing his blues vocal and blow his sharp, bluesy harmonica lines, keeping things in a deep fried blues idiom. A local youth who goes by the stage name Stash sang lead vocals on “Before You ‘Cuse Me” and “Have You Ever Been Mistreated,” having fun playing rock star, or blues star as it was. Guitarist Zoran Matich showed up and displayed his skills.
The band closed out with The Beatles’ blues number “Oh, Darling.” Sweet Melissa sang it with soul power within her considerate phrasing, the band doing the heavy lifting behind her.
Sunday Live Blues at Terry O’Reilly’s Irish Pub in Newton, Massachusetts was alive and well while this reviewer was there last Sunday night. The players, the venue’s atmosphere and menu, and the appreciate crowd came together to make one fine evening. Check it out on a Sunday evening.