Local Wire

Street to Nowhere

Though there is no shortage of young, angst-ridden musicians with angst-ridden tales to tell, ultimately, the power of a story is in its telling — a notion that puts Dave Smallen, the brains and emotion behind Oakland's Street to Nowhere, at the top of his game. Comparisons to Bright Eyes' weeping frontman Conor Oberst are inevitable, thanks to the introspective and occasionally angry lyrics and the forthright emotional vigor with which those lyrics are conveyed. But Smallen, who sometimes covers Leonard Cohen's "Chelsea Hotel No. 2," seems to owe more to older musicians such as Tom Waits, particularly on songs like "Georgia," when he lets the rawness of his vocals carry the song to emotive heights of which Oberst can only dream. It's not all acoustic melancholy, though. Some of Street to Nowhere's most engaging tracks are bolstered by the revving, layered instrumentals. Seattle-based songwriter Rocky Votolato is touring with StN, doubling the dose of tale-telling ditties for audiences nationwide.
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Emily Zemler