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[show review] The Statesmen / Rockwood Music Hall, NYC / 3 February 2012

As if my friend’s first-hand account wasn’t enough, the eye-popping bar charge, not to mention my waking distaste for light and noise, were pretty good indicators of why the previous night was just a little bit hazy for me. The Maker’s had made it’s mark. Yet one thing was still clear, the band that had carried my soul through the wee hours of the morning was still joyfully ringing in my ears.

One of the more underrated aspects of being a bandleader is actually putting the pieces of the band together. Sure, pure talent and songwriting are huge factors, but finding the right people to play out your vision is the key to bringing it all together. Songwriter Jonah Smith has found all the right pieces in his latest outfit The Statesmen. I caught them at the Rockwood Music Hall, a tiny club in the Lower East Side. Smith plays the keys and writes soul-infused rock music that is reminiscent contemporarily of JJ Grey.

For The Statesmen he recruited one of the best guitar players in the city in Scott Metzger. Formerly of Rana, Metzger has more recently become a go-to player for many bands and jams in the NYC area. I have witnessed him lay waste to many an audience with his unadulterated shredding, but it was great to see him succeed mightily in a more constrained environment, threading his notes perfectly within the fabric of the music. Like the opposite of seeing Coltrane let loose in his free jazz phase, Metzger was reining it in to great effect. Drummer Josh Dion complimented Smith with some soulful vocals of his own while blasting out the beat wildly but not recklessly, while Smith’s long-time bassist Ben Rubin solidly pocketed it all together in his solid grooves. They played a little over an hour and left us with the infectiously slinky “Better Than You.” What it left me was hungering for more, but unfortunately that was it. Which given my state, was probably for the best.

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