HomeNewsInterviewsCD ReleasesCD ReviewsConcertsArtistsArchive

A little bit of time goes a long way for Usrey

The Sinclair, Cambridge, Mass., February 25, 2024

Reviewed by Jeffrey B. Remz

Less than four months ago, Tanner Usrey was at the very same club opening for Paul Cauthen. His set was very well received – deservedly so. And now, Usrey was headlining the very same venue and proved that his October 2023 outing was no fluke.

Usrey merged Outlaw Country, Southern rock, country, Americana and a few other sounds in his musical potpourri. He may not be so easily pigeon-holed, but no matter because Usrey was authentic in tackling the myriad of styles.

Usrey benefits from having a plethora of songs that work well in concert – from the more upbeat "Who I Am" to the regret-filled "Come Back Down" where life on the road is hard, especially when you lose the girl back home.

He toned it down a bunch on the first song of the three-song encore, "Josephine," where he was solo acoustic, delivering lines like "She used to be an angel, but she traded that for sin/and when she fell from grace, she fell far, she fell hard/The holes in her soul match the holes in her arms." Usrey showed he didn't need the muscle of a band to make a statement.

Usrey's heartfelt ballad, "Beautiful Eyes," also was a highlight. This was a 180 from most of the rest of the set, but his tender reading was a welcome change of pace.

The mid-tempo "Give It Some Time" came across as a dead ringer for Jason Isbell both vocally and musically.

Usrey benefitted from a sound mix that put his vocals up high even when his band was playing at full steam.

Perhaps his best-known song, "Destiny," cooked, even more so with an interlude of the Georgia Satellites' "Keep Your Hands to Yourself."

His take on the Eagles' "Heartache Tonight," showcasing his guitarists Tyler Wilkerson and Hutton Ferrell and vocals. They were in lock step here, as they were throughout the night on a song they had only worked up earlier in the day.

Usrey showcased the band's Southern rock bona fides at the close of the night with the group's take on the Allman's classic "Whipping Post." Wilkerson and Ferrel kicked off the song with the requisite guitar runs before Usrey lit into it, maybe not quite as gritty as Gregg Allman, but his version rang true.

Usrey had no trouble going from opening act and a short set to drawing a few hundred and be center stage for 95 minutes, showing more personality than a few months ago. A little bit of time went a long way for Usrey.

Arkansas native J.D. Clayton set the stage with a very engaging opening set. Clayton was solo acoustic, playing a number of cuts from last year's "Long Way From Home" and a few ("High Hopes and Low Expectations") from a release slated for this August.

While a country element pops up on occasion in Clayton's musical palette, he was more firmly in the folk and blues end of the musical spectrum and sometimes split the difference with country blues ("Pistol In My Pocket"). He was comfortable occupying center stage either with a commanding, often gritty voice (think John Hiatt, but bluesier) and an engaging presence as well. Like the headliner, it may be only a matter of months before Clayton is headlining too. He is deserving.

©Country Standard Time • Jeffrey B. Remz, editor & publisher •
AboutCopyrightNewsletterOur sister publication Standard Time
Subscribe to Country Music News Country News   Subscribe to Country Music CD Reviews CD Reviews   Follow us on Twitter  Instagram  Facebook  YouTube