Alyssa Graham hit San Francisco’s Hotel Utah on March 17 to perform for an intimate crowd of 50 people lucky enough to be granted the privilege of listening to one of music’s best unknown artists.
In 2008, powerhouse online music retailer iTunes named Graham, a soulful singer-songwriter, as their “New and Noteworthy” artist additionally listing her 2008 debut album “Echo” as one of their “Top 10 Vocal Albums of the Year.”
Graham captivated the small crowd (which included the legendary Tracy Chapman) in the city by the bay with a 12 song set lasting close to 90 minutes.
Sonically, Graham is a purist, who was educated at the New England Conservatory of Music. Her multi-octave voice is unique in today’s crowded music scene.
Graham was accompanied by her band that included the “love of her life”, husband and lead guitarist Doug Graham, guitarist Chris Bruce, acoustic bassist Meshell Negeocello, pianist Keefus Ciancia and drummer Michael Jerome.
The Hotel Utah is unique in that it serves as both a concert venue and thriving local bar.
Despite the raucous St. Patrick’s Day bar crowd, Graham managed to mesmerize the paying audience at the small site with a set chock full of love songs.
The purity of Graham’s voice rang most clearly during “I Know” off of her latest album “Lock, Stock and Soul.” If you love Norah Jones – get to know Alyssa on a first name basis because if the music industry has any kind of a justice system – her career would continue on its current upward trajectory.
Graham treated the audience to a trio of previously unreleased songs including the stand-out “Cathedral Plains.” The new track featured a Neil Young/Willie Nelson tempo during which Graham expertly sang an enchanting melody while allowing her husband to deliver the guitar riffs that made the track both mellow and complex.
During another brand new song entitled “River Man,” Graham’s band filled the venue with a grandiose country jam that eventually led into a repetitious chorus of “Oh, River Man” sung in tandem by Alyssa and Doug.
Without question, the cute and quirky interplay between the Grahams was sweetly noticeable and unforgettable.
Not since Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova took independent cinema by storm in 2008’s “Once” have I seen the remnants of pure, unbroken love displayed unadultered before an audience be it screen or live.
Graham’s best showcase of her vocals occurred when she performed the title track off of her latest album “Lock, Stock and Soul.” With a guitar strung around her neck, Graham allowed her pipes to infiltrate the Hotel Utah as she sang the entire song with eyes closed and hands clutched around the microphone.
While it was a charismatic performance you likely missed – don’t despair because Graham is one of those musical entities that will outlast many of her contemporaries just like Whitney did for her generation.
Stand-out songs: “He’s a Lover,” “I Know,” “Ain’t My Type of Boy” and “Round and Round.”
My final verdict: Loved it? Loathed it? Missed the Mark? – Loved it!