The Beau Alquizola Band celebrates its debut release, Unbalanced, Saturday at downtown's Poison Room. Joining the group for the release show are Wojo, The Newbees and Ryan Adcock.
Alquizola moved to Cincinnati in the early '00s from Florida and quickly ingratiated himself into the local music scene, collaborating with numerous fellow artists. His newfound friends helped out on his solo album, Please Keep the Door Closed, which came out last year, right around the time Alquizola began assembling a band. Unbalanced finds that talented band firmly in place and they prove to be a perfect, tasteful complement for the singer/songwriter's acoustic-based Pop/Rock. Longtime collaborator, guitarist Shaun Henry (also frontman for his own band, Kohai), lends electric and acoustic guitars, putting a little "alt" dirt under the fingernails of Alquizola's elegant songs, such as the distorted wash on "Deceived" and "Unsightly 2.0." Sharon Udoh (also a solo singer/songwriter) provides supple piano and background vocals throughout, while drummer J Matt Retherford (also of Wojo), bassist Noah Diamond and singer/guitarist Ben Schummer round out the sextet. The album — co-written by Alquizola with various band members and others — also features cameos from singer/songwriters like Jeff Conner and Steven Gregory.
As on Please Keep the Door Closed, a focal point remains Alquizola's magnetic voice, a versatile, rhythmic and distinct instrument that resonates like a distant cousin of Cat Stevens. Unbalanced glides from soulful, gentle balladry like "The Ones ..." and "Shining In the Light" to more upbeat fare like "Doors" and "Go On Try," all painted with flawless harmonies, counter-melodies and interesting additives, like the minimalist percussion on "Lost" and the string/synth sounds on the title track. But the material occasionally gets a little earnest and snoozy it's largely stuff fit for Adult Contemporary radio formats and the album sometimes falls into a "here we go again" rut.
Alquizola's lyrics are often refreshingly intimate and revealing, but at times get a little too high-school diary-esque ("It's the labyrinth of time/It's the labyrinth of love/It's the labyrinth of frustration/It's the labyrinth of trust" goes one particularly cringe-worthy stanza on "Labyrinth").
Unbalanced does not live up to its title — contrarily, it is perfectly balanced, which causes some of the lulling effect. The musicians are solid and Alquizola's voice has never sounded better, but the material sometimes lacks and too few risks are taken. Still, Unbalanced is a smart, mature Pop/Rock album with an endearingly organic vibe that rings with honesty and is devoid of even a whiff of pretension. (beaumusic.com)
More Local Notes
· For the past six years, Ryan Horns of the Indie band Paper Airplane has been performing at the annual "John Lennon Festival" in Athens, Ohio, timed to the early December murderversary of the late Beatle. The last two years, Horns was joined by his bandmates. This year, Paper Airplane is taking the Lennon tribute out for a quick regional tour, hitting the Northside Tavern Saturday. The band plays a set of Lennon tunes at 10 p.m., followed by Athens' John Lennon Orchestra. Paper Airplane closes out the night with a set of its own songs. (paperairplaneband.com)
· A rockin' benefit for "Toys for Tots" goes down Saturday at Newport's Southgate House. The show starts early (free food is available at 8 p.m.) and features Chakras, Pulse 8, American Hardcore, The Screaming Kings and Lorenzo. Admission is $6 or one new toy.
· While Grease 2 didn't have a chance to live up to the gyrating Travolta-ness of the original Grease, "Greasemas 2" is shaping up to be even better than last year's inaugural event. The Rockabilly-themed holiday event returns to the Poison Room Friday and features not only music, but other displays of 'Billy culture, including a "Rockabilly Barber," an exhibition of "Hot Rod" art and a tattoo show. The musical aspect is top-notch, headed up by locals The Star Devils, Rumble Club, Lube, Oil and Filter and The WasteWheelers, plus Cleveland's Lost State of Franklin. Music starts at 9 p.m.
· Like getting ripped off at the end of the night by a shifty club owner or having crowd members shout "Play some Linkin Park!" all night, the High School Band Challenge at Bogart's has become a rite of passage for young local musicians. This year, the Challenge gets educational as organizers introduce "Boot Camp Jamz." The Boot Camp — available for all band members entered into the Band Challenge — is a 10-week training program that helps young bands learn about musical and on-stage techniques. The program — which costs $299 per person — runs from Dec. 2 through Feb. 24; the Band Challenge begins Jan. 5. For sign-up info, go to bootcampjamz.com.
CONTACT MIKE BREEN: mbreen(at)citybeat.com