The Lucky Dog Music Hall in Worcester had just started filling up when the Amanda Cote Project was introduced. A few short minutes later their leader had the entire room swaying in rhythm.
On Sunday, May 19, the Lucky Dog hosted a day-long benefit for the One Fund, featuring a handful of local musicians, along with a variety of raffle prizes. Amanda Cote’s band was scheduled to play at 7 p.m.
Right around the top of the hour, Cote broke through the chatter in the room with a rendition of Bonnie Raitt’s “Love Me Like a Man.”
The first thing you’d notice is Cote’s voice, which projects incredibly well over the broken up spacing of Lucky Dog. Throughout the show, her voice transformed into some fantastic covers that were as great as they were unexpected.
The Amanda Cote Project is obviously helmed by their lead singer. She is regularly backed by a lead guitarist, who also sings, and a bassist. Cote’s boyfriend Scott Sheehan strums the bass, while newcomer Hunter Amabile handles the guitar.
“Ultimately, talent-wise I feel like I’m the weakest link in the band sometimes,” joked Cote. “Hunter is also a very strong singer, so it makes for a much more dynamic performance overall.”
Born in Hubbardston, Cote has returned to the Clinton area after many years in Western Massachusetts. She attended Westfield State University, then spent an additional couple years working in the area. All the family she missed back in Central Mass forced her to move back.
The area has it’s benefits for young and growing musicians. Clinton itself is home to numerous live music venues.
Break-Away Billiards and the Simple Man Saloon are a couple of her favorite places to play locally. The band will perform as far as Londonderry, NH, where they will be on June 3.
“Within a 10-15 mile radius, there is a huge wealth of open-mics and blues jams,” said Cote. “I’ve been singing my entire life, but those are the places I am really learning to become a performer.”
Cote first had to be forced onto stage by a friend at The Black Sheep Tavern in Sterling. Though the performance was rough, Cote fell in love. “It was such a rush, I just kept thinking I could do better,” she said.
The regular Sunday Blues Jam at The Black Sheep is one of those events that has helped Cote grow as a performer and learn to own the stage. With a voice like hers, the next step is to be able to control a room with body language, just as well as she does vocally.
After a few songs to warm the crowd up at the Lucky Dog, she whipped out a perfect cover of Gloria Gaynor’s “I Will Survive.” The drawn out and almost magically scratchy passages completely tugged at hearts throughout the room.
The Gaynor/Raitt style appears to be Cote’s comfort zone, throwing in “The Angel from Montgomery,” as well. While most of their performances are covers, Cote and Amabile have plans to hit the drawing board to write some originals soon.
Cote credits her father for inspiring a love in music from a young age. He would play hera variety of genres, occasionally leaning heavily on his Jimmy Buffet albums.
“The way I got better at anything was just emulating. When I would sing along with Jimmy Buffet, I would sound like Jimmy Buffet,” said Cote, who picked up a guitar at age 15, but went away from it for a few years.
When she started getting back into music, the guitar came organically. Cote is largely self-taught, and never refuses advice from anyone. Because of that, her guitar playing, much like her vocals, is incredibly adaptable to different styles.
“My style doesn’t really lend itself to any one genre,” said Cote. She is completely willing to explore where her voice can take the band. The comfort with such wide-ranging performers as John Lennon and Maroon 5, make her a real asset on stage.
“Honestly, Bonnie Raitt is probably the artist we cover most often, but even that is only three songs,” promised Cote. “We try to do songs that everyone still knows, but aren’t covered all the time.”
The performance at the Lucky Dog included not only plenty soulful female artists, but also some Grateful Dead and Alice in Chains.
The charitable performance closed with a smooth jazz tune in which Cote put the guitar away to focus on crooning the soulful melody.
The song featured Sheehan on bass and really quieted the entire bar area. It was a familiar melody and definitely recognizable, though not something you’ll often here in that venue.
“I just try to pick songs that might bring back a sort of nostalgia for people,” said Cote, of trying to pick things that people will recognize. “I want to offer familiarity, but not monotony.”
Cote left the Lucky Dog quickly, as they had a second gig lined up in Worcester that night. With more shows of this caliber, it won’t be long until Cote is the part of her performances that is most recognizable.