By Jason M. Rubin
Adam Sherman, Cambridge-based musician, voice teacher, and vocal coach, never went away.
You can’t keep a good voice down. Or a good guy, for that matter, and Adam Sherman is both. You might remember him as the singer of Private Lightning, whose 1980 debut album on A&M Records was supposed to break the group nationally. But there aren’t a lot of good guys in the music industry, and the Voices That Be did not anoint the group as had been hoped. “Public Thunder” might not be an apt description for what Sherman is all about today, but it’s worth noting that he is more active and in the public eye these days than he has been in a long time.
Of course, the Cambridge-based musician, voice teacher, and vocal coach never went away. He has released new material regularly over the last few years, and has been gigging around town. Last Wednesday, he made his mark at the Burren in Somerville with a band that was tight and sympathetic, letting his words and melody — and voice — take center stage. The key member of his band, whom Sherman calls “my angel: she loves what I do and loves being part of it,” is cellist Lauren Parks. Cello is also the instrument I would most associate with Sherman’s voice, so it’s no surprise the two work so well together. The band also featured David J. Lieb on keyboards, Jeff Song on bass, and Chris Michaels on drums.
“I feel lucky to have found these guys,” says Sherman. “As a bandleader you have to generate the energy, not to mention the money to cover things. That’s not always easy when you’re not a major-label star, which is why it’s so hard to keep a band together these days. When I was younger, your band was your tribe; now, I don’t know anyone who’s in just one band.”
On his own or with others, Sherman has been putting out strong recordings on his Bandcamp site. His latest song, “Loveless Days,” is a beautiful but moody song of lost love and the pain that endures: “Life is short/What I’m looking for/Is a way to close the door/On sad and loveless days.” Last year, with noted local drummer/producer Dave Brophy, he put out a digital EP called Sweet Relief that features somewhat more hopeful fare. Prior to that, he released full-length albums in 2018 (River of Dreams, from which much of the Burren set was drawn) and 2014 (Songbird, produced by local sax great Ken Field, who leads the Revolutionary Snake Ensemble).
Asked about the general tenor of his music, Sherman was frank. “I struggle with depression,” he says. “I tend to find that writing songs comes from some part of that dark night of the soul. It’s really just about examining what is important to me. I care so much about truth, and I want my lyrics to be true and honest. The only thing I can talk about with authority are my own successes and struggles in life. I’m not a poet, and I can’t aspire to being one, but I can talk about things in plain language and I can put together phrases that have color and truth. My hope is that people can feel that truth.”
Based on the response to his hour-long set at the Burren, Sherman is definitely connecting. With his silver rock star hair and sensitive good looks (with a big mustache he’d look like Sam Elliot), he can bring the heat with conviction. But he also has the confidence to break up the flow with a soft, slow ballad (such as “Madeline” and “Do You Believe in Dreams”) and have the audience listening silently and intently. The show saw the live debut of “Loveless Days,” while older songs were enhanced by the wonderful filigrees of Parks’s cello. In his easygoing manner, Sherman also warned the audience at one point that the band was about to do a new song they had performed live just once before, and in that performance he had flubbed the first line. This time he messed up practically the entire first verse! But he was able to laugh it off and the supportive audience was more than forgiving.
Turning the night into a true event, Sherman brought up Field for the last four tunes, and opener Sal Baglio (ex-Stompers frontman) for the final two. Baglio began his set with a few solo acoustic numbers, including a deliciously slow version of the Beach Boys’ “In My Room” (which he introduced as “a song by one of my favorite writers,” referring to Brian Wilson). He then brought out his new band, the Amplifier Heads, for the kind of fun, loose set one expects from the man who led one of Boston’s all-time great party bands.
Upcoming shows for the Adam Sherman Band include The Square Root in Roslindale on April 25, 9 Wallis in Beverly on June 26, and a part-time residency at the Plough & Stars in Cambridge on Wednesday nights starting in July. He’s also working on a new full-length album, compiling songs for a late summer/fall release. For more information on Sherman’s music, check out his website. If you’re interesting in taking voice lessons with him go here.
Jason M. Rubin has been a professional writer for more than 33 years, the last 18 of which as senior creative associate at Libretto Inc., a Boston-based strategic communications agency where he has won awards for his copywriting. He has written for The Arts Fuse since 2012. Jason’s first novel, The Grave & The Gay, based on a 17th-century English folk ballad, was published in September 2012. His current book, Ancient Tales Newly Told, released in March 2019, combines in a single volume an updated version of his first novel with a new work of historical fiction, King of Kings, depicting the meeting of King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba. Jason holds a BA in Journalism from the University of Massachusetts Amherst.