From the Pit to the Crowd: Corey Smith with Jacob Powell

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On December 30th I attended another show at the House of Blues Orlando featuring Corey Smith. Normally, the music and shows I review are rock or metal. Corey Smith isn’t either of those and I’ve heard him being labeled as progressive county. Still, I thought this would be a good review opportunity as I had heard many good things about him and his music. I arrived at the garage about 7:15 PM. I was told the doors opened at 8 PM and the show would start at 9 PM. I was actually stunned because the 5 floor garage that was closest to House of Blues was full except for a few spots at the top level. I luckily found a parking close to the elevator and made my way down and over to the box office.

I picked up my press credentials and waited for the doors to open. Once they did I made my way through security, and headed over to the pit. I was early, but I didn’t mind. I rather be there waiting then to get there late and miss a performer. I watched from the pit stairs the House of Blues fill up little by little. By the time 9 PM rolled around, it was a packed house. Corey Smith drew a huge crowd that night. Yet, I was the only photographer waiting. The first performer went on stage and I made my way into the pit.

The performer introduced himself as Jacob Powell and he and his band started off his first song “Needle”. Jacob’s sound had the country vibe though I felt there was more. This wasn’t the stereotypical country I was expecting. It was edgy and I felt a little rock beat to it.  It was very enjoyable and the crowd was grooving along to it. He then stopped to toast the crowd to a beer and continued on with a new song he wrote called “All My Party People”. Once again another song that had a country/rock vibe and one that I could easily hear being played in a bar for people to sing along. Jacob’s vocals are on the high range, which I liked, and he uses it well to match it with his music. He also performed “Workin’ Man” from his self titled EP.

Photographing Jacob and his band was pretty standard for lighting with mixes of purples and yellows and reds. I honestly wondered if lighting like this would fit Jacob and his band. Simple answer: absolutely. He can rock out with the best of them. He performed a cover of the Beatles “Come Together”. He put such a nice rock sound to it. A beautiful bass and guitar sound during the expected instrumentals and he put power vocals into it and made the song his own. To close the show, he did a cover of AC/DC’s “Rock and Roll Ain’t Noise Pollution”. Jacob Powell is a very talented performer and put on a great show for the fans that night.

Corey Smith had the curtain close to do some set changes after Jacob before he hit the stage. When he did, he was sitting on a stool, acoustic guitar in hand, and his sunglasses on. The crowd loved it. Photographing him from the pit had some very nice lighting of blues and purples. He looked right at home on stage with his guitars and sunglasses. And him talking to the crowd you can hear the sincerity in his voice. Corey also mentioned he hadn’t played to a live audience in a few weeks and hoped he wasn’t going to forget any of the words.

I can understand why people use a label like progressive country. He made it very clear he only sings about things he’s actually experienced in life. He writes all of his own work and to me it shows. His songs have a personal touch and you can tell they are rooted in a memory. He played a song called “Twenty-One”, which he referred to as his “time machine song”. It brought him back to his younger days and the things he did. Another song, “Chattanooga”, told the story on how he was once banned from the town after a small incident occurred when he played a song called “Fuck the Po-Po”. “Chattanooga” is a hilarious tune telling this tale, which is more spoken than sung.

Some of his other songs he performed were “Blow Me Away”, “The Baseball Song”, “I’ll Get You Home”, and “$8 Bottle of Wine”. He also performed “I Love Everyone”. He spoke before this song saying how he’s not a person who puts labels on himself or others. All he wants are for people to be good to each other. Before he closed out the night, he introduced his band members. In between each introduction, he performed a short covers of some well known songs including “Jeremy” by Pearl Jam, “Fuck You” by CeeLo Green, and “Desperado” by The Eagles.

Corey Smith’s fans were excited and energetic from the moment he stepped on stage to the moment he closed the show. And he treated them like family. He kept them involved, spoke to them frequently, and made sure everyone was having fun. Corey is a very talented songwriter, a great singer, and a phenomenal entertainer. It was a pleasantly enjoyable evening to see him perform.