By Andrew Poretz . . .
Sometimes you just have a good feeling about someone, and you have to trust your gut. After meeting the young singer, actress and makeup artist Tina Scariano following a “Lineup with Susie Mosher” show at Birdland, that gut feeling was strong. Tina recently appeared in that show, and her debut show at Feinstein’s/54 Below on April 14th proved to be a big win for the old gut. Feels Like Home presented folk rock songs of the 1970s associated with such “queens of rock” as Linda Ronstadt, Dolly Parton, Carly Simon and Stevie Nicks.
Dressed in an oyster outfit that complemented her long blonde hair and her blond, acoustic Martin guitar, with makeup that subtly made her outer glow match her inner glow, the tall, blue-eyed Tina appeared luminous. At musical director Brad Simmons’ suggestion, Tina eschewed a band in favor of Simmons’ fine accompaniment and vocal harmonies, and her plugged-in acoustic guitar. She was tentative at first on Joe Raposo’s “Sing,” perhaps nervous in her debut at such a prestigious venue. The “Sesame Street” signature song had a hit version by The Carpenters in 1973. By the second song, “It’s So Easy!” (Buddy Holly and Norman Petty), a huge hit for Linda Ronstadt, Tina found her voice.
Brad Simmons, looking colorful in a turquoise jacket and rust pants, joined Tina with splendid harmonies on “It’s Too Late” from Carole King’s “Tapestry.”
Tina has a lovely voice with an appealing vibrato and timbre. She can sing powerfully when it is needed, and never overpowers the material. Her sound may remind the listener of some of the 70s rock singers like Dolly Parton or Stevie Nicks, without any sort of overt impression. As if to validate that thought, she sang the Fleetwood Mac classic “Rhiannon.”
This performer is fairly new to the guitar. At first, the instrument seemed more of a prop, but when Brad Simmons left Tina alone on the stage with just her voice and guitar for Joni Mitchell’s “Both Sides Now”, she played it competently. While retuning the instrument, she playfully noted, “It’s my G string that causes all the trouble,” to much laughter. She is no virtuoso, but she plays well enough to accompany herself. In fact, Tina could probably carry a show at a more intimate venue like, say, The Bitter End with only a guitar and no accompanist. On those songs where she put the guitar down and sang with just Simmons’ piano accompaniment, she had a solid stage presence.
Two back-to-back highlights were the Emmylou Harris hit “Two More Bottles of Wine” (Delbert McClinton), complete with two bottles of wine brought out by Brad Simmons, and The Carpenters’ chart topper “We’ve Only Just Begun” (Roger Nicholas/Paul Williams) with Tina taking the Karen Carpenter lead vocal and Brad taking the Richard Carpenter harmony, giving it something of a “Carpenters Unplugged” feel.
A fun fact Tina shared about Carly Simon’s “Anticipation” was that the famed singer-songwriter wrote the song in 20 minutes while waiting for Cat Stevens to pick her up for a date. This was one of several songs in which Tina asked the audience to singalong. My guest, who was unfamiliar with the artist, whispered, “I’m enjoying this much more than I thought I would.”
Once again singing with just her own guitar accompaniment, Tina’s encore was the title song, “Feels Like Home” (Randy Newman), which was a hit for Linda Ronstadt (with Emmylou Harris and Dolly Parton on the original recording).
This show was made even more delightful by Tina’s funny and charming personality. Whenever there was any sort of glitch or unexpected moment, her penchant for improvisation kicked in. (It was no surprise to later learn she trained with the Upright Citizen’s Brigade.)
This was an auspicious debut for Tina Scariano. While she may be lacking some of the emotional connection of a more-seasoned cabaret performer, her strong musical skills, stage presence and radiant personality make her a joy. She is currently working on a songwriting project. As a performer with much going for her already, some original material would make her quite formidable in the New York music scene.
Feels Like Home – April 14, 2022
Music director/piano/vocal harmonies: Brad Simmons
Feinstein’s/54 Below 254 West 54th Street, NYC