CD: 9 Songs; 39:09 Minutes
Styles: Harmonica Blues, Blues Rock, New Orleans-Style Blues
An atmospheric title, such as California-based JeConte’s Down on the Bayou, conjures up mental and musical images. Swamps, alligators, voodoo charms, Zydeco, and horn-based blues are but a few. One might think the accordion to be the instrument of choice on their newest album, but it takes a back seat to JeConte’s expertly-played harmonica and guitar. This band’s music is reminiscent of Blues Traveler and the slide/acoustic side of Eric Clapton. Even JeConte’s vocals have the contemplative tone of “Slowhand” in his later years. Although they might not be quite that powerful, they’re poignant and expressive in each of his nine swamp-influenced songs. All of them were either written or co-written by JeConte and his bandmates.
This evocative ensemble consists of its titular lead singer on vocals, harmonica and guitar; Anders Osborne on vocals, lead/acoustic/slide guitar, and keyboards; Wall Ingram on drums and percussion; Matty Cohen on vocals and lead/acoustic guitar; Chris Haugen on vocals and lead/acoustic/slide guitar; Carl Dufrene on bass; Dre Michot on violin and accordion; and Daniel Horstmann on additional percussion in “Down by the Bayou”.
The CD contains a balanced mixture of pure harmonica and New Orleans blues, along with mellower ballads such as “Little Christina”, “Cellophane” and “Promised Land”. These three critiqued below are of the former category and will get crowds on their feet, especially in bars or at outdoor festivals.
Track 01: “Down on the Bayou” – Number one is, in this reviewer’s humble opinion, number one on the entire album: the best. It’s a tambourine-shaking, ruckus-making, foot-stomping good time. According to the back of the CD cover, this track is “featuring Anders Osborne”, and indeed, his superb slide guitar skills will drive listeners hog-wild with glee. Also of note is Dre Michot on violin, an understated treat that gives this tune a true New Orleans touch.
Track 02: “Evermore” – After that glide down the waters of the bayou, it’s time for electric blues rock. “Evermore” is full of grit and growling riffs on the intro, and JeConte takes a commanding lead on harmonica. Its in-your-face lyrics describe a lost soul who “fought the demons and dragons within” to achieve redemption. In the middle of the song, there’s a method to the madness: it’s meant to sound like an instrumental hurricane. “Evermore” may not be church music, but it’s darkly inspiring.
Track 06: “Everything” – In its highest form, love is all-encompassing, and each partner in a romantic relationship considers the other to be his or her “Everything”. In this brisk boogie-woogie, all of the band members play full-blast, especially Michot on accordion, JeConte himself on harp, and Carl Dufrene on a bass backbeat that keeps him bee-busy. Baby boomers will be able to do the Twist, while younger people watch and learn the moves or jump around instead.
JeConte’s professional musicianship will make blues rock fans yearn to go Down on the Bayou!