If pop singer Steve Tyrell ever loses his whiskey-and-molasses singing voice, he could make a handsome living on the celebrity speaking circuit.
He could talk about his work as a songwriter for Elvis Presley or his numerous production credits (he oversaw the recent CDs of standards by Rod Stewart and Regis Philbin), or how his own recording career suddenly took off after he sang on the "Father of the Bride" soundtrack. Of course, then he wouldn't have nearly as much fun as he had at the Birchmere on Monday night, casually performing pop classics for a crowd that included more than a few adoring female fans.
For all the competition out there these days, Tyrell may be the ultimate boomer crooner. Approaching the Great American Songbook as a latecomer raised on R&B -- Ray Charles remains his primary influence -- he glides through the vintage repertoire with plenty of ease and charm. He's certainly no match for Tony Bennett; Tyrell tends to skim the emotional surface of songs associated with Frank Sinatra and Billie Holiday. Yet Tyrell's newfound enthusiasm for their recordings is obviously sincere and often infectious.
A seven-piece ensemble served as a little big band at the Birchmere, with trumpeter Lew Soloff and saxophonist Lou Marini vibrantly framing the low-key vocals. Tyrell was at his best during "You'd Be So Nice to Come Home To" and other tunes that suited his breezy, unaffected style, allowing him to finger-snap his way from one ovation to the next.
-- Mike Joyce