Brooke Robertson

The melodic interpretations of local artist and singer-songwriter Shane Stoneman could be heard while passing by the Sweet Springs Saloon in Los Osos Friday night.

It was my first time inside the local haunt, better known for its pool tables than the musicians employed to keep its dance floor packed. While the stage looked more like something a garage band would use for practice than a serious venue, the informal atmosphere was perfect for the night’s exhibition.

Throughout the night, Stoneman displayed an easygoing attitude, evidenced by the T-shirt and jeans garb of the band and the bottle of Corona at his feet. The overall impression was less of an artist giving a performance than of a man having a good time with old friends. Offstage, he said that he recognized half of the crowd, and a significant portion of the audience stood ready to glad-hand him and offer liquid refreshments during breaks.

Stoneman arranged the performance to promote the release of his new album, “Days Gone By.” A few of the CDs were available by the stage, offered by Stoneman for the modest price of “$10, or three Euros. or take my car and fill it up with gas. That’ll get you four or five of them.”

Most of the songs featured in the evening’s two sets were included on the CD in some form, including Stoneman’s first duet, “Won’t Get Too Cold,” sung with San Francisco vocalist Amy Cruz.

Other offerings were diverse in topic and inspiration, ranging from UFO visitation to the Los Osos sewer controversy, to a father’s love and, of course, the classic inspiration of lost lovers.

Stoneman was backed by a quartet of musicians each with their own followings on the Central Coast. Zak Cornejo, of the band Criticinue, propelled the night forward, compelling an initially reluctant crowd to the dance floor with solid rhythms alternating between rock and jazz beats. Dylan Johnson of Functus accompanied Stoneman and Cruz, adding his voice to the significant contributions of his bass guitar which could be heard prominently throughout the night’s long instrumental riffs.

Pianist/keyboardist Thomas Cuffe, of Resination, was introduced only as “Toes,” an appellation of apparently unknown origin. He complimented Stoneman’s harmonica and vocals with slow background finger work and a more noticeable presence when called upon. His use of the organ allowed the evening to shift modes from a hard indie-rock edge to slower jazz elements as the set neared closure.

Of the 21 songs featured during the performance, there was enough variety in stylistic inspiration to keep things interesting. Throughout the soulful combo of voice and harmonica backed up by almost “soft pop” bass, the occasional and fleeting country-western sound in some lyrics, or the straight-out-of-the-’60s poetic styling of Cruz, something for all tastes could be found and always a sense of fun shared between audience and performers.

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