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Lane, Ramsey, Barrett cover their bases

Paradise Rock Club, Boston, December 12, 2018

Reviewed by Jeffrey B. Remz

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Covers played a far more prominent role than usual at a country show. And instead of what is typically the least course of resistance in recent years of country artists succumbing to their renditions of a rock hit, Chris Lane, Mason Ramsey and Gabby Barrett played songs that actually were country hits.

Interestingly, the youngest of the bunch, Ramsey, 12, was the keeper of the flame. The Indiana native, who went viral after a YouTube video of him yodeling away at a Wal-Mart in rural Indiana, stuck to country roots. That meant that three of his nine songs were Hank Williams Sr. (Jambalaya (On the Bayou)," "Lovesick Blues" and "Hey Good Lookin'") covers and another ("Ring of Fire") was identified with Johnny Cash. Plus a tasty version of "I Saw the Light" with the crowd singing along.

Ramsey did not have to do much more than breath for the crowd - especially the females in the audience - to shriek with excitement. Prime example, the screams that resulted from Ramsey taking off his jacket during "Yo Da Lady Who."

Ramsey didn't necessarily reinvent the wheel here with his renditions, but he also handled them with ease.

He also did justice by opening with the upbeat, percolating "The Way I See It" and closing with his hit, "Famous."

The choice of material for a 12-year-old boy still seems questionable. Singing about marriage and heaven as he did in the opening "The Way I See It"? Not so sure.

Ramsey was not the most natural performer. He sings well (if you've heard him on his recorded versions, it's not all that different), but may take time to find his comfort level on the stage.

Whether Ramsey is "the future of country music" as the local DJ said in introducing him is, of course, open to question and maturity, but give Ramsey uber credit for paying homage to country's traditional roots at a time when their ghosts seem ever further away.

Barrett opened the show with a five-song set where her own material ("Jesus and My Mama" and "Fireflies") was better than covers of Journey's "Don't Stop Believin'," Maren Morris' "My Church" and Carrie Underwood's "Last Name." It wasn't that she wasn't capable. She's a big voiced singer, who came in third on American Idol 16 this past season (she sang the cover songs on Idol), and was fully capable.

The crowd responded far more to the covers. Not a surprise given that the songs were far more familiar than her own material.

Presumably due to economics, Barrett suffered from having only a guitarist (boyfriend and fellow Idol 16 contestant Cade Foehner) accompanying her. That meant a lot of backing tracks, which took away any sense of being the full deal. Despite that, Barrett showed promise. A voice like hers goes a long way.

One would have thought that Lane might have had his work cut out for himself after the rousing reception for Ramsey, but he that was not a problem in a set that had extremely little in common with Ramsey until very late in the set.

Lane's brand of country is far more rock than anything resembling Hank or Johnny. Starting with "Fix," the song was danceable, but not country. "Broken Windshield Lane View," was a rocker. The mid-tempo "Drunk People" stated the obvious - "drunk people do dumb things."

Lane displayed an ease on stage with a pleasant, clear voice heard above the music while working the stage throughout the night. His songs are pretty much all about love - the radio ready ballad "Number One," "For Her" and the closing "Take Back Home Girl" (with Barrett helping out) filling the bill.

As for the covers, Lane got the ball rolling early on with his spot-on take of Tim McGraw's upbeat "I Like It, I Love It." Then, it was an unnecessary blink-182's "All the Small Things" based on the guitarist's supposed choice of a song he would pick on the condition that Lane had to know it.

But the real treat was a slew of snippets of country songs, including "Should've Been a Cowboy," "Watermelon Crawl," "Boot Scootin' Boogie," "Dust on the Bottle," "Check Yes or Not," "Sold (The Grundy County Auction)" and "Friends in Low Places" before "Up Down." Save for the latter from Morgan Wallen, based on the rest of the Lane's 80-minute set, one would not have expected Lane to go for more traditional country songs. It would have been even better to hear full-blown versions of the songs.

Lane played to his female fans - there were a chunk of them - by calling a teen up onstage for "I Don't Know About You." Although role playing the songs, it was slightly creepy when Lane caressed her hair slightly a few times. He quickly showed heart by calling up a teen, who held a sign, "I'm 16 and I have autism" and wanted a hug from Lane. Singing along while sitting on a stool during "For Her," Lane answered her wish with several hugs. Nice move.

This was a night where each artist occupied different perches of country from the traditional to the more pop sounds to rock. Ramsey certainly is steeped in tradition; Barrett somewhere in between; and Lane more of a rocker. Each covered their base.