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Hurray for the Riff Raff changes - in some ways

Sinclair Cambridge, Cambridge, Mass., April 18, 2017

Reviewed by Jeffrey B. Remz

Hurray for the Riff Raff's new release, "The Navigator," was a long time coming - slightly more than three years after "Small Town Heroes," a strong roots-disc that found them touring incessantly.

A few things have changed in the interim for the New Orleans-based band, but one of them remains the presence of front woman Alynda Lee Segarra.

The Bronx native retained her vocal prowess on the second of two nights at the outset of their new tour with her commanding voice leading the way.

Interestingly, Hurray started the night with "Nothing's Gonna Change That Girl," the lead-off track from "The Navigator" (Hurray played three-quarters of the songs on the dozen-song disc). But the truth was that was exactly the case - a few things have changed.

While Segarra proffered a social conscious in previous tours, she seemed more overt and upfront about it as the evening wore on, saying the times needed people to stick together. Before closing out the regular set with the new "Pa'lante," Segarra said, "We can never give up, and there's a lot at stake."

Segarra underscored exactly where she was coming from at the close of the 80-minute show with a reading of The Dubliners' 1968 song "Free the People" and its opening lines, " Laws were made for people / And the law can never scorn / The right of a man to be free / Free the people / Let them have their say / Free the people / Let them see the light of day."

Hurray for the Riff seemingly has veered towards more of a folk sound with blues thrown in and a bit less of a rootsy sound on "Small Town Heroes." The fiddle (Yossi Pearlstein on previous tours) sound is gone with keyboards, guitar, bass and drums constructing the sound.

Make no mistake that Hurray for the Riff Raff and Segarra is a band with thought and direction. Times, sound and band members may change, but the underlying identity of Hurray remains intact.

Local-based singer Hayley Thompson-King opened with a most satisfying set that could be labeled as garage country (not exactly the same as Aubrie Sellers' self-described garage country). The Florida native was of fine voice especially on the more country-based songs, but she also had the chops to put across the more garagey, rough-hewn songs. Having guitarist Peter Weiss help out certainly helped. Thompson-King made a very good impression.

Ron Gallo was the middle act, touring behind his debut New West disc, "Heavy Meta." The Philly native, now based in Nashville, was a bit dense in his musical sound as a trio with Gallo, who plays guitar, and mates just on the right side of providing enough sonic variety to maintain interest. Gallo has a bit of a quirky, humorous personality - reading a statement of thanks and introducing himself before playing a note was funny - but, fortunately, had enough musical depth to rely on far more than that.

©Country Standard Time • Jeffrey B. Remz, editor & publisher •
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