11 songs – 44 minutes
One More Round is the Georgia-based John Pagano Band’s fifth album, albeit the first under its new moniker. Previously known as JPBlues, the band describes its sound as “thick blues dripping over the edge of rock.” Having not had the pleasure of hearing their earlier albums, it is perfectly possible that those releases were blues albums. One More Round, on the other hand, is pure rock with barely a hint of blues.
The funky drum and slide guitar beginning to opening track, “Bottoms Up” is an encouraging start, but within 10 seconds the track strides into rock territory with its heavily overdriven, muscular guitars, pounding drums and terrace-chant chorus.
The primarily mid-paced songs on One More Round are well-written, with a nice mix of riff-based rock (“Make You Shout”) and pop-rock melody, from the driving “Radar Love”-like grind of “Trouble On Heels” to the cod-reggae of “Ain’t Mine”. The ballad, “On My Mind”, features an interesting and unusual guitar pattern, slowly growing into its rumbling rock finale. However there is nothing in any of the tracks that suggests the subtle dynamics and rhythmic complexity of blues.
The pop-rock of “Lost In You” and “Ain’t Gonna Lose You” both feature some nice funky slap/pop bass and choruses that are reminiscent of Hootie and The Blowfish. Indeed, there is a certain late 80s/early 90s feeling to several of the songs in their transition from quieter verses to full-blown singalong rock choruses, although the raucous rock of closing track “Catch That Train” wouldn’t be out of place on a Uriah Heep or Blackfoot album and the dramatic single note guitar riffs of “Bad Habit” recall late-era Rainbow or Deep Purple
Pagano wrote all 11 tracks himself and also produced the album, capturing a fine sound. He sings in a warm, husky voice that perfectly suits the material as well as playing some fine guitar. He is clearly a serious talent. The rhythm section of drummer Shiloh Bloodworth and bassist Tony Hossri lay down a variety of solid grooves over which Pagano lays down a nice mix of smartly over-dubbed guitars and a series of short, punchy and to-the-point solos. Particularly striking on many of the tracks is the clever use of strong backing vocals, for example on “Rise Up”, a track inspired by the Atlanta Falcons.
One More Round is a very worthy release. It is well-written, well-recorded and well-played. It is also, despite how the band describes itself, a long, long way away from the blues. One to investigate if your tastes lean towards modern rock and pop-rock.