The painting on the main inside support beam and on the wall of the patio out back both read, “Keeping the Music Alive & Growing”. That is a good description of the feel you get from the music of The Fall Risk – it is alive, it is exciting, it is passionate, it is growing….
Playing to a small but enthusiastic crowd – maybe a blessing as Moe’s can get pretty heated inside, even with the back doors to the patio open – they put on a near 2 hour show, and didn’t hold back one note. It didn’t take long for folks to get up off their bar stool and feel the need to move!
So, this band has gone through some changes since JBO discovered their sound last year, at their debut CD and release party up in Mill Valley at Bob Weir’s Sweetwater. When I arrived at Moe’s Alley, the first thing I noticed was one less keyboard on stage – Sammy Johnston’s. He will be missed. He added a lot of fun to their performances, gave good “guitar face” so you could tell by looking at him what he was channeling down to the keyboards. And, he could also rock that harmonica!! The other change was less noticeable until they hit the stage. Phil Savell, former lead guitar, has also taken a leave for other musical adventures, leaving the job up for one James DePrato. After loosing Phil, Jeff got a suggestion to look at James, who has a very strong sound, yet also warmth and lifting, and can be quick at traveling up and down that fretboard! He’s spent some time recently with the likes of Chuck Prophet and Sammy Hagar, to name a few. Together, the electric leads and rhythms exchanged between he and Rich Goldstein continue to give a strong sound to this band, that gets stuck inside your body, inside your head. That’s something a good band does, they get into the center of your being, and they stay there for a little while. It’s a good linger, and it serves to make you yearn for more.
Still have my favorites of this band – Angeline, LeClaire, Hollow, Lemonade – but also really got into their covers, their sometimes unusual covers…. wait, make that unexpected. “Highway to Hell” from AC/DC and Deep Purple’s “Space Truckin’” (to which I get a very deep, guttural, connected laugh to my left from someone who could tell, from the first note, what this was)!?! “Man those cats can really swing. They got music in their Solar System. They’ve rocked around the Milky Way, they dance around the Borealice. They’re space truckin’ everyday. Come on! Come on! Come on! Let’s go space truckin’!” Ye-ah! A little metal mix in their back pocket was quite a switch from the smooth, rolling, americana story-teller feel out of their originals. I’m all good with that, a fan of all kinds of music. I can still see the album, “Machine Head” sitting amongst my sister’s vinyl. And, of course, Jeff tosses in a comedic comment, “That was ‘Truckin” by the Grateful Dead.” yuk yuk.
I really liked the way they do up the “Catfish John”, a little more southern cajun rock, in Matt’s vocal style, a quicker beat to the heat, rather than a cool groovy reggae-style version. Same with, or maybe even more so their take on, “Walk and Don’t Look Back”, the old Tosh and Jaggar song sung by Mike Sugar, bassman who’s got some vocal chops as well.
By the time we reached the first note of the second set, the crowd was thoroughly refreshed and ready to boogie – clearly, as it became more difficult to maneuver through crowd, with all those arms and legs flailing about with glee! Opening with “Wanderlust”, a brand new song fitting in with that distinctive sound they have – easy going, relatable, songs that paint a picture in your head, something you can imagine all your own. Its got that rolling beat that your heart can relate to, a desire to move, the feeling you are on the road, on an exploration.
The opening harmonies in “Jessie” and the warmth of the encore, “Hallelujah” are soothing and gentle. I appreciate the way a band can melt their voices together, leaving you wonder who is singing what particular string of notes. It cannot be easy to do, especially in raw performances you get with The Fall Risk – they are real guys, real honest musicians, up on the stage pouring it all out for you, feeling it with you, taking it higher from the energy you might be exuding, or maybe it is the smile you wear, the look of joy on your face. If I was a musician, that would get to me! And back to “Jessie” for just a second…. this song is all Matt Twain – vocals, keys, drive. Yup, all Matt.
And then we get a funky, slow, strut out of everyone up there. Recognizable funky, slow, grooving strut. The way they goo up that “Deep Elem Blues” makes ya feel like your down in the south, down in Deep Elem, Dallas Texas, the colored red light district. back to the old traditions. A song recorded by various musicians and bands, from The Shelton Brothers to Les Paul, Jerry Lee Lewis to Jerry Garcia and the Grateful Dead, it has a few different versions and spellings, from the original “Deep Elm Blues”, to “Deep Elm No. 2” and Deep Elm No. 3”, to “Deep Elem Blues”, to “Deep Elm Boogie”. Hum, might have to go find that version out there somewhere. I like to boogie.
I’ve had one of their songs stuck in my head for days. Nope, not “Angeline” this time, but “Lemonade” – smack dab in the middle of “Space Truckin’” and that “rhythm jam” for lack of better terms, you know, when Mark Abbot stays on drums, Mike Sugar holds down the bass, and Rich Goldstein keeps the electricness going on the guitar for a few very deep, rhythmically freeing minutes. Gives each of them a chance to show us what they got – love it. So, back to this taste of “Lemonade” I have stuck in my head. Maybe it’s because it was slipped so smoothly in between the two very harsher, heavier stage moments that I’m remembering it’s sweetness just a little more than I had before.
It’s just effortless music. Fluid. Easy and soothing to listen to, pleasurable for the mind and soul. Their sound places a good feeling inside you, maybe gets you just a little closer to your euphoria as they urge you to dance and spin as you feel their musical souls open up to the room. Their debut album, “The Fall Risk – Volume No. 1” is still available on Amazon for $12.22, an interesting price, but there are only 3 left in stock so you better get one! Or, head out to their next gig and grab one then for just $10. And they are nice enough fellas, appreciative of their fans, they’ll stick around after the show and sign it if ya ask….. http://thefallrisk.com/gigs/
The Fall Risk, Moe’s Alley Blues Club, May 14
Set 1: Ode, Cross My Heart, LeClaire, Catfish John, Cry Baby Cry, Angeline, Dead Flowers, Walk and Don’t Look Back, Misfits
Set 2: Wanderlust, Jessie, Deep Elem Blues, Hollow, Space Truckin’, Lemonade > Rhythm Jam> Highway to Hell E. Hallelujah