Concert Review: Sam Sherwin at the Cutting Room, NYC 10/8/08

Southpaw guitarist Sam Sherwin and his all-girl band were a fixture of the Lower East Side scene back in the 90s; after that, he did a stint as the lead player in brilliant New York noir rockers DollHouse. Tonight at the Cutting Room, backed by a stellar band including Donna McPherson from Funkadelic on bass, Dena Tauriello from Antigone Rising on drums plus the excellent keyboardist Peter Vitalone.Sherwin showed off an unexpectedly kinder, gentler side. Sherwin’s playing and writing, at least up to this point, have been imbued with a sarcastic wit bordering on bitter, unleashed rage, and while some of the older songs he played tonight had that vibe, there was also a newfound warmth and optimism in his songs. The new material from his forthcoming cd Iodine Cocktails was typically midtempo, major key, slightly Springsteenish rock that wouldn’t be out of place at just about any roadside bar from Portland (Maine) to Seattle.



They opened with a somewhat Stonesy number: with the organ behind him, Sherwin was able to hang back and embellish the melody rather than having to alternate between rhythm and lead as he used to do. A funny new drinking song set to a swaying country beat was a real surprise, and one of the high points of the set. Another new tune, a catchy, upbeat janglerocker featured a long, Asian-inflected piano solo out. Of the old material, the opening cut on Sherwin’s most recent cd Dirty Little Secrets (which made our top 50 albums list in 2006) was the best, deviously slurred chords on the verse building to a supremely catchy chorus. “I don’t regret a single thing I did to you," Sherwin railed.



The feel was the same on a remarkably subtle, thoughtfully bluesy reworking of the jailhouse tale Sittin on a Bench (a true story: Sherwin spent a night in the Tombs after a jealous woman told the cops a fib or two). Another reworked tune, Get Close was much faster than the recorded version, but again was much terser and bluesier. They closed much as they started with another thoughtful, melodic, midtempo number. If there was anything to criticize about this show, it was that Sherwin didn’t solo as much as he used to: he’s the rare lead guitarist that you actually want to hear more of. Where he wants to go with this project is pretty much up to him: although the record labels that used to make money off this kind of stuff are either dead or close to it, he could take this act on the road pretty much anywhere and make money. Or, hell, open for Springsteen: he’s from New Jersey, why not?