Right Side Up Records
Born and raised in Chicago, Ivas John grew up hearing plenty of outstanding music, courtesy of his father’s record collection that included plenty of soul, blues, country, and folk albums. John wanted to make music and after trying several instruments, at age sixteen he fell under the spell of a guitar. He eventually left home to attend Southern Illinois University and quickly became immersed in the local music scene, finding work backing former Mellow Fellow singer Martin Albritton and Rip Lee Pryor, son of the great blues harp player Snooky Pryor.
Settling in Cape Girardeau, MO, John has continued to refine his talents as a singer, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist. His band works a steady stream of gigs throughout the Midwest, with four previous releases plus a dvd of a live performance at BB’s Jazz Blues & Soups in St. Louis. His latest is one of those recordings that steadily seeps its way into your consciousness, filling it with plenty of joyful sounds.
The opening track, “Goin’ Back To Arkansas,” is one of eight tunes John wrote for the project. His easy-on-the-ears vocal rolls along over his tasty acoustic guitar picking, assisted by Robert Bowlin, formerly of Bill Monroe’s Bluegrass Boys, on guitar and fiddle while Ross Sermons anchors the proceedings on upright bass. The line up changes for “Here I Am,” with David Davis on mandolin and Gary Gordon on dobro engaged in a finely detailed exchange while Charlie Morrill on drums adds a light beat. “Roll Mississippi” is a breezy tribute to the mighty river in addition to cities and towns situated along the riverbed. The combination of John’s guitar with the fiddle and dobro creates an alluring soundscape.
John’s father helped write “All Along,” a compelling song about life’s simple truths with a warm vocal and John’s skillful guitar work. Gordon’s dobro establishes a mournful atmosphere on “Things Ain’t Been The Same,” but the mood improves on “Payday Boogie,” a western-swing toe-tapper sparked by Bowlin’s fiddle. “Keep Your Train Movin’” utilizes a common Americana image to preach the value of staying the course through life’s twist and turns. The short “Sunday Morning Blues” is a solo guitar instrumental that encapsulates the depth of John’s musical journey.
The Merle Travis classic, “Dark As A Dungeon,” has one of John’s strongest vocals, with Bowlin’s fiddle eliciting haunting tones while Gary and Roberta Gordon supply the harmony vocals. The mood picks up on the jaunty “Greenville Trestle High,” another song with train images. John expounds on the struggles of the working man, punctuated by David Davis’s mandolin picking. “Can’t Help But Wonder Where I’m Bound,” penned by Tom Paxton, is another highlight with John and Gordon on guitar, Sermons on upright bass, and Tim Crouch doubling on fiddle and mandolin. The two guitars are the only accompaniment on “Wrong Road Again,” with John musing on his inability to break free of a woman’s charms.
This is one of those recordings that grows on you with every listen. After a couple of songs, you can’t help but feel you are sitting on the back porch with some good friends, spending the afternoon deep in the joy of music-making. It is certainly a welcome respite from the glut of rock/blues that is prominent these days. Make a point to give this one a listen.