“We’re the Record Company, and we play rock and roll.” This is how the Record Company’s lead vocalist/guitarist/harpist Chris Vos often introduces his band at the start of a performance. While said in an understated fashion, it is no understatement.
Throughout the nearly hour and a half performance at Syracuse’s Westcott Theater May 20, The Record Company proved time and again that they do indeed play rock and roll. Steeped in a blues tradition but still maintaining a contemporary rock sound, the Record Company is out to prove that rock is not dead.
Before The Record Company hit the stage, opening act, Nashville-based duo Smooth Hound Smith, won over the crowd early with some self-deprecating humor and foot stomping blues. The husband and wife duo, Zack and Caitlin Smith had a great stage presence and could easily have passed as the headliner on this night.
Zack Smith plays guitar, harmonica and foot drum as well as handling the majority of the vocals, a virtual one-man band. He has a country-blues feel with a touch of rockabilly. Caitlin Smith adds percussion and lush vocals with a bit of a Nashville touch and the occasional Janis Joplin wail to round out the Smooth Hound Smith sound.
The Record Company, Vos, Alex Stiff on bass/vocals and Elmira native Marc Cazorla on drums/keys are as cohesive a unit as you’ll find in music today. The rhythm section is tight and Vos is a multi-instrumental maestro. Vos’s bluesy vocal style was perfectly complemented by Stiff and Carzola’s harmonies all night.
One can derive many influences in the music of The Record Company – Delta and Chicago blues, gospel, mid-70s stadium rock and even hip hop. The latter was exhibited in a spirited, bluesy cover of the Beastie Boys “So What’cha Want” that had the near capacity crowd happily bouncing along.
Vos leans heavily on his weathered Fender lap steel at shows and for good reason, he made that thing sing, especially on the greasy blues dirge”Rita Mae Young.” His harmonica style, especially in the band’s single “Hard Day Comin’ Down” beckons Bob Dylan.
Speaking of Dylan, midway through the show, the band worked in a three-song acoustic mini-set, anchored by a scorching version of “Subterranean Homesick Blues.”
The set closed with Vos lying his acoustic guitar across his lap for lesson in the slide. Stiff and Cazorla kept the back beat while Vos furiously worked the guitar and later the harmonica on the appropriately titled, “The Burner.” Cazorla was often pulling double duty on his bass, sometimes playing it as a lead instrument as well as using a slide.
The show closed with a one-song encore, a new one from the band’s latest album. “In the Mood” is a blues, via Mod era Who, romp that ended the night on a high note, including crowd participation on the chorus. The band took a collective bow with appreciative smiles, the audience reciprocated, another audience won over. This is a band that is on to bigger things, dragging honest rock and roll along with it.
The Record Company Setlist: On the Move, Baby I’m Broken, Hard Day Coming Down, Night Games, Rita Mae Young, Feels So Good, Crooked City (acoustic), I’m Changing (acoustic), Subterranean Homesick Blues (acoustic) (Bob Dylan cover), Don’t Let Me Get Lonely, So What’cha Want (Beastie Boys cover), Turn Me Loose, Off the Ground, The Burner
E: In the Mood