Some musicians are so much fun you have to see them more than once. Bass player, jazz scatting pro, and former American Idol contestant Casey Abrams is one of those guys. It just so happens that I was also already familiar with the two gentlemen opening for him on the night of October 7, 2015 at Saint Rocke in Hermosa Beach, CA.
First on stage for the night was alt-country singer Danny Hamilton. I’d seen Danny a few months earlier at the same venue opening for Dana Fuchs and picked up one of his self-recorded albums. I like the quality of his voice. He looks like he could be a cousin of Jason Mraz, but has a rich vocal tone more reminiscent of Eddie Vedder. Danny started off the night playing guitar and singing one of his own tunes, “I’m Still Here,” an introspective ballad of toughing it out when things are difficult.
Then Danny invited singer Abby Hankins to join him on stage for the rest of his short set. She has a clear, bright voice that sounds great alongside Danny’s and they should keep performing together. Providing additional support was bass player, Kalim. The pair sang a cover of Bruce Springsteen’s, Devils and Dust, and then another Danny Hamilton original, “Bury the Devil,” which a few years ago took Danny to second place in Country Music Television’s Music City Madness contest.
Danny switched from guitar to ukulele for the next few original songs, including a newer one called, “Love is the Way.” This was followed by a quirky tune called “The Jester’s Aubade,” which has been used on the show My Life as Liz. The next song was called “Soul Shine.” They closed with a pretty cover of The Civil Wars’ song, “From This Valley” — the linked video is of Danny and Abby performing this song almost a year earlier at the same venue.
Local musician, Nick Shattuck, played the middle set of the night. He also played a set of seven songs, though some of them I do not know the names of. A singer-songwriter with a strong sense of rhythm, his clear love of nature shows up lyrically in several of the songs he performs. He particularly seems to be inspired by water (rivers/ocean). The first song he played included the line “The waves explode onto the shore line” and the second one, “In this flash of time we are water on the coast line.” His third song, written on the banks of the Mississippi, was “Follow the River,” which is from his first album Chorus and Verse. Accentuating his songs perfectly that evening was violinist Jesse Olema.
Nick’s most recently recorded work is an EP is called Up Late, Dreaming. He played three songs from it, including: “The Lives We Lead,” a song about moving from Wisconsin to the L.A. area; “Your Heart,” which was the first song he wrote after moving; and the title track “Up Late, Dreaming.” He also played a brand new song called “Etta James,” which was my favorite tune of his of the night.
The ever dynamic Casey Abrams appeared on stage with keyboard player, Quenton Zigler, and drummer, Henry. He kicked off his set with a few tunes from his self-titled album: “Get Out,” “A Boy Can Dream,” and “Simple Life” (the title of this post is borrowed from a line in this song). He played a rocking new song called “Shining a Light.” Then he dipped back into his album for tunes “Dry Spell” (the linked video is from that night) and “Stuck in London.”
Casey had a special surprise in store for the audience as he welcomed singer Haley Reinhart to the stage (also a former American Idol contestant). These two have been performing together on and off since their season of A.I. and they make a fantastic pair. They performed a new song that is most likely called “Never Knew What Love Can Do.” (I’ve also seen it noted as “Never Knew What Love Could Do” — follow the link for the video taken at Saint Rocke). Only one song was performed with Haley, but it was a highlight of the night. Casey followed it up with a fantastic cover of Sam Cooke’s song “Lost and Lookin’.”
Things started loosening up on stage at this point. There were a few amusing minutes of playing parts of songs requested from the audience, including the Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood theme song. Casey took over on the keyboard and Quenton moved to trombone for a soulful rendition of R Kelly’s ballad, “I Believe I Can Fly.” Back on his bass, another cover Casey played was “Why Don’t You Do Right?,” a jazz standard with many versions, but perhaps most well known from the movie Who Framed Roger Rabbit?
Casey returned to his own catalog for the final three numbers, first playing a super uptempo version of “Ghosts” and then a straightforward one of “Blame it on Me.” He closed the night with his funky song “Cougar Town.”
I felt so appreciative to be able to get out and witness this fun evening of music with all three of these acts. Casey, particularly, is such an entertaining and talented performer, it is definitely worth taking the time to see him perform live. Casey is touring with Postmodern Jukebox in November and December. Catch them if they are playing near you!