The girl with the small voice, but huge heart

The Girl with the Small Voice, but Huge Heart
Samantha Hooey (with Tam Duong & Rory Taillon)
Live Review: Aug 31st, 2012 @ London Music Club (Front Room)

I originally met Samantha Hooey back in 2003 when we shared some electives as freshmen at Fanshawe College. When I revisit those memories, there are two things about her that I distinctly recall: 1) everyone just seemed to naturally gravitate toward her and 2) her near-debilitating stage fright. 

Given her multiple talents (she plays guitar, piano, bass and sings. Oh and did I mention she’s primarily self-taught?), positive energy not to mention her classic good looks, the first point probably isn’t that hard to believe.

Anyone who witnessed her heartfelt, moreover confident performance at the London Music Club this past Fri Aug 31st however, would likely need a bit more convincing in terms of my latter observation.

As one of Samantha’s long-time friends and supporters, I’ve had the privilege of witnessing her perform many a time in various venues, with and without her band.

While her CD release party in January of last year provided listeners with the opportunity to see, more importantly hear, her demonstrate her competence as both a solo artist and front woman, admittedly, there remained moments of hesitation and awkward dialogue. That was most certainly not the case this time around.

The difference in crowd size (her CD release had the venue nearing capacity, if not sold-out) undoubtedly played a factor. But given that (and I say this from personal experience), it’s a hell of a lot more intimidating being the sole sound-maker on stage, clearly there had to be something else at play accounting for the striking difference in her demeanour between the two gigs.

Whether it’s her recent undertaking of vocal coaching or an unconscious acknowledgement of just how far she’s come, one thing is for certain, this most recent gig of hers unveiled to me a woman who has truly blossomed as a performer.   

In an unassuming simple white blouse paired with rolled up jean shorts and ankle high western-style boots, Samantha captivated friends, family and fellow musicians alike with her delicate voice, relatable lyrics and sincerity.

As she effortlessly transitioned from chord to chord, Samantha added bends, slides and whatever other lead techniques struck her momentary fancy. The instrumental conclusion of Burn Your Way Out was a particularly strong illustration of her complex finger work. Samantha’s playing precision was only slightly rivalled by her expert application of varying vocal dynamics. What Samantha may lack in volume, she more than makes up for in heart.

Standout tracks included: crowd favourite, Just Wait, along with a new not yet titled piece that added a little aggression to the mix. I was sold at the first utterance of a palm-mute.

Also on the bill were fellow local Tam Duong and GTA-er Rory Taillon which made for a unique, but complementary line-up. Though the players were all one (wo)man vocalists/guitarists, each brought to the table their own individual interpretation of the singer/songwriter genre.

While Tam’s got his percussive pop sound a la Jason Mraz down to a science, Rory specialized in dark, tortured, melancholic ballads, channelling the vocal prowess of Matt Good right down to the use of precisely-timed vibrato.

Tam’s between-song banter was well-received, especially his anecdotes about how difficult it is to write non-cheesy love songs. Seeing as he has successfully hired out his talents to couples looking for originally composed “romance themes”, perhaps he was being a tad modest.

Tam’s original track Swing of Your Kiss (to be released on his forthcoming album) stood out as being perfectly primed to become one of the next big toe-tapping Hot A/C singles, while his cover of Bill Wither’s Ain’t No Sunshine brought out dimensions I never knew existed in the song. 
 
Rory’s literal and figurative heavy-hitting was unquestionably best saved for last. If any of the attendees had found themselves wrapped up in conversation or otherwise temporarily distracted throughout the other two performers’ sets, once Rory took the stage, I can assure you this would no longer be possible. In other words, this man’s a tenor POWERHOUSE who could easily give Michael Crawford a run for his money. Lucky for us sitting near the front, he was all too aware of how to properly use a microphone.

Though at times, Rory seemed apologetic for his sombre songwriting style, when he explained his lyrical inspirations, it became evident (at least to me) his serious tone was more than justified. Among other tragic lived experiences, one such piece told the tale of his uncle’s arduous bout with leukemia, and likely served for Rory as a form of personal catharsis. 

A proven showman, Rory’s Lone Bird finale, a song which details his impassioned political views on how corporations abuse the environment, went out with a sharp single-strum “bang” and left listeners with room for contemplation.

The only major deficit of the show? The lack of attendees. It’s really unfortunate to artists when venues house simultaneous bookings, particularly when one of them involves a known “celebrity,” as was the case here.

Rose Cora Perry is a London singer, songstress, and freelance writer. Visit her at http://www.rosecoraperry.com/

[Photo: Rose Cora Perry]

 


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