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Written by Max Hancock

Asked by MTV in 2012 to describe the sound of his then-unreleased first album, “What You’re Looking For,” Arkansas singer Cody Belew replied “I don’t want anything on this album that you won’t want to skate to. If you can’t roller-skate to this album, then we might as well not do it.” Mission accomplished: Cody Belew’s album is eminently roller-skateable. It’s soft, glossy, John-Hughes-prom-scene music. It’s smooth and easy on the ears.

The same cannot be said of Cody Belew’s live performance. Onstage, he’s an explosive singer and a dynamic performer with a knack for working a crowd. His voice soars, his hips sway, and his audience eats it up. For 45 tight minutes at Nebo Jam he tore through soulful covers and country-infused original numbers, backed by his capable three-piece band. Belew is a natural entertainer and he treated the adoring Nebo Jam festival goers to an exhilarating performance. His set wasn’t perfect (at one point he had to restart a song because he couldn’t remember the words) but it was thrilling, high-energy, and sincere. In the studio, Cody Belew makes roller skating music. Onstage, he’s a force to be reckoned with.