Now/It's: Billy Raffoul at The Basement East

Take a moment to consider Bruce Springsteen’s first shows. I’d reckon we’d all have distinctly different images of The Boss cavorting about and caterwauling all over Elks Lodge in Freehold, New Jersey, but probably not as polished as he’s since become. The voice was probably always there, but what about the showmanship? That kind of presence is not easily crafted, much less born outright. Anyway, what I’m trying to present is the idea of a far more reserved, polished, Canadian version of Bruce Springsteen, or in more simple terms, Billy Raffoul.

I’ll be the first to admit that I had to play a bit of catch-up when it came to Raffoul. Sure, his name had popped up all around town, but, so did plenty of others. Then he’s featured on an Avicii track (“Audio”). Then he opens for Judah and the Lion at the Ryman earlier this year. Then he’s one of the buzziest artists on a buzz-laden Interscope roster. Talk about a meteoric ascension. What I’m trying to say is that Raffoul is someone to take note of for the foreseeable future.

But let’s get to the show itself, enough about his ascent-to-date. There are aspects of Raffoul’s presence that The Boss would be so lucky to have had when he was starting out. First off, Raffoul has a dark, yet approachable brood that is bound to appeal to many walks. Secondly, his voice is, simply put, unreal. Seriously.

It’s crazy to think that Raffoul is yet another heavy timbred Canadian (the other being Colter Wall) to call Nashville home for the past few years. But man, does his voice call back to some of the strongest Springsteen tunes. But there’s more to Raffoul’s voice than the raw unbridled emotion found in The Boss’, there’s more polish, a little more restraint when needed, undoubtedly serving Raffoul for years to come.

Nevertheless, we’re talking about the most current iteration of Billy Raffoul, and to put it bluntly, his live set is something to marvel. Raffoul’s banter is limited, not in the restrictive sense, but rather one of restraint. He’ll make a nod to the familiar faces he’s come to know over the past four years in Nashville, but at the same time, he doesn’t gush. That’s always refreshing considering how often people get carried away with that type of thing, but not Raffoul.

Furthermore, the anecdotal stories that Raffoul shares to setup a song are far from unremarkable. The tidbit Raffoul shared with the Basement East faithful and in turn stood out as the most remarkable was the anecdote leading into “The Man I Deserve.” In a casual fashion that only Raffoul could pull off, he took a moment to note that the last time he played the song was when he played it at the Ryman with Jeff Beck. Super casual. No big deal.

All joking aside, things look to be coming up aces for Raffoul, as he played two “hometown” shows that touted a substantial audience, on his first headlining tour, no less. There’s no sign of things slowing down, so expect the trend to continue, and who knows, maybe two decades from now, people will speak of Raffoul with the same reverence as The Boss.