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Monday, November 10, 2014

Review: Young singer/songwriter Chase Walsh impresses with debut

By Ted Slowik

At age 15 most of us are still formulating our musical tastes, choosing from among the palette of popular artists and sounds to select favorites we carry with us the rest of lives. But at that young age singer/songwriter Chase Walsh is already defining the course of his own original music.

Chase, who started learning music when he was 5 and wrote his first song at age 10, has just released his debut collection of six studio recordings, all originals. He'll celebrate the release of "Your Friend the Robber" with an all-ages show at 2 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 16 at Chicago Street Pub, 75 N. Chicago St., Joliet. Tickets are $5 and available through chasepatrickwalsh.com while supplies last.

"Your Friend the Robber" is an excellent debut. The songs all feature Chase's fine acoustic guitar playing and sweet low voice expertly recorded at Hillbilly Studios by his guitar teacher, Kev Wright and Brent James of The Righteous Hillbillies. There's a minimal amount of accompaniment: an egg shaker on "Impulse," a subtle Kev electric guitar solo on "You Ain't Goin' Nowhere," some deep-end cello by Andrew Matichek on "Like I Do." But for the most part Chase's songs stand up very well on their own with just his guitar playing and voice.

Chase has a gift for melody and a solid grasp on writing songs in open tuning. He displays maturity well beyond his 15 years, both in writing and performance. His voice is unmistakeably in pitch throughout, and his guitar playing shows a poise and confidence that many players don't discover until much later in life.

His style of singing probably appeals more to today's 15-year-old girls than those of us who grew up listening to The Beatles and The Rolling Stones on AM radio. But listening to this record multiple times is a truly enjoyable experience. There's a heart and sincerity to Chase's music that makes one believe in his limitless potential.

Probably the worst thing that could happen to Chase is if he were to suddenly become hugely popular on the scale of a Justin Bieber or The Jonas Brothers. And that's not far-fetched, given his pop idol-looks and his Vine following of more than 37,000. That would be a shame, because as Chase matures from writing songs about girls to other topics he could become a voice for his generation in the vein of a great songwriter like Ryan Adams.

Full disclosure: I'm also a guitar student of Kev's, and I met Chase last summer before he performed at Hopstring Fest in Joliet. That doesn't diminish my enthusiasm for Chase's music or admiration for his gifts. He's a talented guy, and I look forward to hearing much more from him in the future.