Reviewed by Jeffrey B. Remz
iranda Lambert, Kip Moore, Brett James and Bob DiPiero could not be found guilty of being third time lucky in bringing the CMA Songwriters Series to Boston. Far from it because once again the night proved to be a home run.
Kenny Chesney headlined the first year, Carrie Underwood last year, and while their presence was certainly felt at varying points during the two-hour show, Lambert was the main attraction.
The night was far different from what Lambert and Moore typically do with their evenings. Lambert, for example, is heading over to the home of the Red Sox, Fenway Park, to open two sold-out Jason Aldean shows for about 35,000 a night instead if the 1,000 or so she performed before on this evening.
The four songwriters sat on chairs, aided by Lambert's long-time guitarist Scotty Wray (brother of Colin Raye). With DiPiero serving as host and leading off, the four went in order in performing songs they penned. Often they would give the backdrop to the song. The others tended to kick in either on guitar and/or backing vocals (except for Moore, who curiously was pretty much a non-factor when the others played for some reason).
Lambert tremendously benefited from the setting. This was about as relaxed as the singer has been seen in concert. It was an easy going, down home affair with plenty of banter.
Another huge plus was that Lambert's vocal qualities shined throughout, never having the chance to get lost in the blare of loud guitars during her typical concert.
Lambert gave her perspectives on Famous in a Small Town, a song from her second disc, "Crazy Ex-Girlfriend." Lambert explained that the song has more meaning for her now than she wrote it because of the ever-present paparazzi that trail her and husband Blake Shelton. She mentioned that she's supposed to be pregnant a few times with twins, divorced and a few other falsehoods, according to the tabloids. Lambert shot down the rumors.
Moore has a vocal grittiness and believability that comes through clearly. While saying he would play the autobiographical Reckless, he fortunately did just that.
He stopped at one point during his current hit Hey Pretty Girl to tell the story for the first time of how a female fan shouted at a Reno, Nev. gig, just as he reached the key point of the song, "Kip, show us your balls." That more than dumbfounded Moore the first time around and affected him this evening as well as he had a few false restarts before capably turning it in.
Moore looked ahead also by playing a new song Unless Heaven's Got a Dirt Road, from his next disc. The song, based on his church upbringing in southern Georgia, started on the slow side before picking up.
If the enthusiastic crowd was disappointed that Lambert didn't sing her huge hit The House That Built Me or her current hit Mama's Broken Heart, they shouldn't have been because the night was geared to having the performers only play songs they penned.
But the same can't be said for Moore's biggest hit Something 'Bout a Truck. He did help write it, but it was not on his list of songs tonight.
James, who was just in town in June to play with the Boston Pops, told some of the some stories, including how he wrote Out Last Night with Chesney. In fact, it was one of two chart toppers for Chesney that the two wrote that day with Reality being the other.
James, who said he was dropped by three different record labels and also gave up on a medical career (he didn't finish med school), has a fine, soulful voice. Not to mention the fact that he's a strong writer as well, contributing Jesus, Take the Wheel, and a rousing closer of When the Sun Goes Down.
While his singing and writing skills are beyond question, James' comments proved to be a bit much at times. Cloying might be the appropriate word given his effusive praise of Lambert and Moore along with heaping the praise on Boston as well. He has a modicum of familiarity with Moore, however, particularly since he produces him.
DiPiero contributed a few songs he has played on other occasions here including, Southern Boys the Tim McGraw hit, and a rousing version of the Montgomery Gentry uptempo hit Gone.
DiPiero may have keen writing skills and a good stage presence with his warmth and sense of humor, but once again he underscored why his talent lies in writing, not singing. He doesn't have a tremendous amount of vocal range or beauty.
That's pretty much a given with DiPiero, but he deserves a lot of credit for keeping this thing going as host.
Last year, DiPiero promised that the show would return to Boston this year. He made good on that promise, of course. Good thing because yet again the CMA Songwriters series proved that the writers behind the hits know a thing or two about what makes for an enjoyable night. Hey CMA, how 'bout same time next year and go for the grand slam?