The Patriot Ledger Article

Article taken from

Thursday, June 29,2000
Entertainment Section – Page 24


Four years ago, Canton’s Drew Ambrose found himself at a crossroads in both his personal and professional lives. He decided that what he really wanted to do with the rest of his life was make music full-time. Local fans will be glad he did when they hear his debut CD, “Soul Shine.” The album blends various influences into a smooth pop/soul sound that seems tailor-made for adult contemporary radio.

Ambrose will celebrate the CD’s release with three upcoming dates. He leads his septet at the Kirkland Cafe in Somerville tonight and at O’Brien’s in Allston tomorrow night. On July 12, the group will perform at the Midway Cafe in Jamaica Plain.

Unlike many dreamers who might want to be musicians, Ambrose had both a musical background and the resources to invest in himself. After majoring in business in college, Ambrose spent 17 years building a career in the business world. He was a partner in a company which supplied temporary help, such as software engineers, to high tech firms. That outfit became so successful a larger company made them a nice buyout offer, and while it afforded Ambrose a neat little nest egg, it also came with a three-year no-compete clause. He was only too happy to take a break from the corporate world.

“I’d been in a few cover bands in the early 1990’s” Ambrose recalled, “including most notably The Core, a classic rock band that did everything from Eric Clapton to Doobie Brothers, but we’d never really been very successful. After my company was sold I became really serious about my music. I decided this was the time to try and write some of my own songs, and hopefully get them on the radio. I felt it was either go for it all the way now, or it would just always be a hobby. The three-year no-compete clause turned out to be a perfect time frame for writing and producing a CD.”

Ambrose’s influences are varied, but his favorite contemporary performer is Seal and that kind of melasmatic soul is very evident over the CD’s 46-minutes-plus length. There’s also a healthy infusion of rock and pop shadings, and many older fans will doubtless compare it to Hall and Oates’ best work. The soulful rock ballad “Never Have to Say Goodbye,” for instance, is better than anything Hall and Oats have released for a decade or so.

“I was probably influenced a lot by Seal,” Ambrose agreed. “I love that pop-rock-with-a-techno bottom sound of his. The third song, ‘The Love in You, ‘ is definitely a pop ballad. But ‘Find a Way’ is a more folky kind of tune, with piano. On a lot of other stuff my arranger (Linda Chase) has given it a much more rhythm and blues feel, because that’s her style. We tried to put a rock edge on most of the songs. I’ve always loved Marvin Gaye, as well as what we call classic rock these days.”

Lyrically, Ambrose’s songs deal with romance lost and found, like most pop, but there’s also a palpable under-current of loss, and resilience in the face of hard-won experience. “I think writing the songs on the album provided me with a lot of emotional healing,” Ambrose said. “I had gone through a painful divorce at about this same time. It’s always said the artists get inspiration from a wound like that, and I definitely wrote from the perspective of that lost love, the pain and emptiness, the yearning that comes from a long separation. That was a very hard time for me and I dove into the music to work through it. I’d like people to be touched emotionally by my music-I think the whole process is aimed at touching the listener and opening them up emotionally.”

Ambrose, who recorded the album with studio musicians, has assembled his own band and has been busy rehearsing them. John Hamill of Franklin is the bassist, with Leominster’s James Thomas on drums, Athol’s Kailte Kelly on keyboards, Somerville’s Dave St. Dennis on keyboards, Connecticut’s Chris Simonds on guitar, and Norwood’s Kathy Quinn on harmony vocals. Ambrose knew Quinn from working their previous day jobs, while Hamill was the bassist in The Core. Thomas, Kelly and St. Dennis were recruited from ads in the Boston Phoenix, and they referred Simonds. This band may be compiling lots of commuting mileage, but they all believe strongly in the final result.

“We’ve been rehearsing three nights a week since April,” Ambrose noted. “I think if a band even takes a couple of weeks off you lose that tightness and synergy you need. We’ve developed a pretty good setlist, because we realize we’ll need some versatility to take many gigs – it’s hard to come in cold to a club and do all originals. We have about 25 covers right now, current pop tunes from artists like Seal, Lenny Kravitz, The Goo Goo Dolls, and Dave Matthews – a particular favorite of mine.”

“”Well perform about eight of the tunes off the new CD,” Ambrose added. “We’re leaving out a couple of the slower ballads, which don’t work as well in a club setting. The arrangements on the album are pretty dense in many places, but this band is able to do them just about like they sound on the record.”

Ambrose and his fledgling band are planning a follow up CD, with sessions slated for mid-July. He hopes to have a three-song EP ready by summer’s end. The novice songwriter has become quite proficient.

“I’d struggle to finish a whole song when I started,” Ambrose chuckled. “Now I can sit down and writ one from start to finish – I did two last night. The more you hone your craft, the more you hear in your head, it just flows more and more easily, I’ve found.”

While Ambrose never rules out a return to the business world – and admits his entrepreneur dad doesn’t quit consider music a real job – he’s sure he’s made the right choice for a new direction.

“I enjoyed working in business, and it contains some satisfactions at the end of a day. But with music the gratification is in writing, putting it all together with a band, and then performing it for a crowd – it’s a very different reward. I’m totally committed to the music; it’s my life’s passion. I’d hate to have gone through life regretting that I didn’t try this. I believe God gave me the gift of this talent to use.”


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