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Music Review: Chris Mouch Band:

Club Trip is a very small music club, a bar in fact – an unassuming place, distinguished mostly by the collection of vintage rock concert posters on the walls. But the club was distinguished on January 4 by the band that opened for the evening – the Chris Mouch Band.

There are only three band members. Mouch (pronounced Mowk) sings and plays guitar, using an acoustic guitar with a pickup. He is accompanied by Dan Erlich on bass and Perry Ostrin on drums.

Originally from Cincinnati, Mouch was classically trained in voice at Northern Kentucky University and played for 12 years with the jam/rock band Only Everything, who opened for many artists, including the Dave Matthews Band. Recently, Mouch moved to the Los Angeles area, got his current band together, and is getting ready to record a debut solo album.

Mouch’s Club Trip set displayed a taste for folk-rock chords and blues-soul singing. He lists among his influences Ben Harper, Paul Simon, Stevie Wonder, Amos Lee, and Ryan Adams, but somehow this reviewer was most reminded of the Pennsylvania modern rock band Live. Mouch’s voice has the high range and force of Live’s Ed Kowalczyk, as well as some of Michael McDonald’s gutsy style.

It’s a good thing Mouch knew how to work with his voice, as Club Trip’s sound system was far from top-notch. Even though the three instruments generated fewer decibels than most rock bands, the faulty sound made it slightly hard to hear Mouch’s voice early on in the set. But he continued, belting out the vocals louder without losing his style. That’s proof certainly, that this man has a voice.

The first songs, “Break a Little Sweat,” and “What Is Beautiful,” were competent numbers, with folksy twangy guitar work. If the lyrics weren’t coming through as well as possible, well, again, that was the sound system. Next came “Karina’s Song,” a gentle song of relationship analysis and longing, with a folk-rock flavor.

The pace picked up with “Heavy Rain,” a definite showcase number. This song had a dramatic buildup delivered by Mouch’s singing and Ostrin’s precise drumming. Following this was “Understand,” which began and ended with a rocked up rendition of the old ballad “Amazing Grace.”

Mouch and his band skillfully used a tacit (pause in the musical accompaniment) with Mouch’s vocal over the tacit, to bring this song to an exciting close. The audience gave the band an enthusiastic ovation.

Two more songs ended the set, “Blackjack,” and “On The Line,” the latter of which incorporated bits of Stevie Wonder’s “Superstitious.” While “Heavy Rain” and “Understand” had seemed like finale songs, “On The Line” turned out to be a strong finish to the set, with Erlich getting in some bass solo licks and Mouch’s vocals out in front, despite the dicey miking.

There is obviously much more to Mouch’s talent than what he could display during the short set at Club Trip. One wants to hear the band at a venue with better sound. At this point, Mouch may still be feeling around for a stage performance style with his band-the Club Trip set felt very informal, with some ragged transitions between songs and not much in the way of between-songs patter. Hopefully, more gigs and work will smooth out the rough spots. Musically and instrumentally, this band has something going for it.

Santa Monica locals won’t have to wait too long to hear for themselves as the Chris Mouch Band is playing another gig January 23 at the Santa Monica Bar and Grill.

For more information, go to myspace.com/chrismouch.

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