This review of Jimmie Bush Jr.'s Good Times Revue at The Metropolitan Room was written by Nickolaus Hines and published in Volume X, Issue 5 (2015) of the online edition of Applause! Applause!
Good Times Revue - Jimmie Bush Jr.
Introduced by George Bettinger
The Metropolitan Room
34 West 22nd Street
New York, New York 10010
George Bettinger took the stage at The Metropolitan Room in front of a thin audience. He was there, he mentioned after more than a few quips of his past voice impressions and radio show, to introduce his latest find in the singing world: Tampa native Jimmie Bush Jr.
The audience hardly needed the introduction. Jimmie's mother, Mary, appeared to know many of the seated patrons, and introduced herself to those she didn't in a blend of casual Southern charm and a Florida smile. Both Mary and Bettinger were quick to qualify Jimmie's voice. He has never had singing lessons, he was 24, and he recently graduated from the University of California (Merced), where he played football.
By the time Jimmie made it to the stage, I wasn't sure which side of his introduction to believe. Bettinger's praise and adoration of finding his newest singing sensation, or Bettinger's promises that his new talent was worth listening to despite a lack of formal training. Jimmie answered that question when he finally took the stage: both.
Bush's voice came out strong on his first two songs, but flat on the first couple bars. Bush only had a CD and a man pressing play backing him up and giving vocal cues, which somewhat explains the missed notes at the start of each song. He sounded caught up in the moment of being on a stage in New York with his vibrato coming off nearly as shaky. It wasn't until Bush's nerves had calmed that he showed his style. The Motown hit Stand By Me has natural wiggle room for personalization, and Bush took full advantage of that opportunity. The natural talent mentioned in the introduction became apparent with clearer notes as he crescendoed. At the peak of his songs, however, the microphone stayed too close to his mouth, causing ear-buzzing volume levels. Such a mistake can be easily remedied by a few lessons and a little practice, but as Mary said, they have been doing this for less than a year. In addition, Bush was fighting to be heard over the pre-recorded track that couldn't adjust naturally like live musicians could have.
Bush's song selection was stuck in the 1950s and 1960s. His one-liners weren't quite as tired, but slightly awkward. "If you have any tips to help me remember the lyrics," Bush said when mentioning how his mother forgot the lyric sheet, "write it on a 50 dollar bill and pass it forward."
He is an obvious David Ruffin (of The Temptations) fan. He also leaned towards cruise-ship classics like Dean Martin's Ain't That A Kick In The Head and Frank Sinatra's Fly Me To The Moon. With songs such as these, his raw singing voice overshadowed staging and singing techniques he needs to be taught. Even singers well into the performance track struggle with imitating the relaxed style of Martin and the definitive staccato of Sinatra, and Bush was no exception, but Bush was able to add his own twist that worked.
The period influence also led to songs by Elvis, a few old country songs and Quando Quando Quando. Bush, other than the first notes, which always started flat, hit the mark on most of the remaining notes. What was missing was the grit and emotion needed behind some of the wails and screams.
The clear bias towards the songs of half a century ago helped in the sense that the close mix of family, friends and vigilant supporters knew the words to the songs. At times, I felt I was crashing a wedding reception and the wedding singer was the groom's best man. The bias didn't, however, necessarily best showcase Bush's voice.
In terms of natural style, think Josh Groban with crystal vibrato and extended notes. In terms of singing style, think Michael Buble's remastered jazz and big band classics.
The night ended with a pre-planned announcement that The Metropolitan Room is prepared to book Jimmie Bush Jr. for four additional dates next year. Bush told me he never thought about a cappella variations, and has never sung with a live band before, but the addition would surely help him.