JS Blues – Self-Titled
CD: 10 Songs, 37 Minutes
Styles: Mellow Guitar Blues, Contemporary Electric Blues
Pennsylvania’s Johnny Searfoss, known as JS Blues on his third album, has mastered the art of understatement. His songs have a quiet beauty a la Steve Miller’s, mellow and relaxing. He may not be a super-shredder or a vocalist of the highest echelon, but there’s nothing wrong with being in the middle. On ten tracks, JS presents good work, but his real strength lies in his songwriting. In the CD liner notes, he laments the state of postmodern music: “It’s a business of formulas and algorithms, computers and auto-tune…with an obvious disregard (by some) for content.” Searfoss himself eschews these techno-tricks in favor of heartfelt, authentically-produced tunes. Fans of mellow electric blues will treasure his aesthetic, as will people looking for offerings by seasoned artists. JS played his first official gig in 1978 and is still going strong.
The JS Blues band actually began decades ago, when Searfoss, as a young guitarist/vocalist, fell in love with the songs emanating from his family’s record player and radio. He was especially enamored with B.B. King, Eric Clapton and ZZ Top. Johnny soon acquired an electric guitar and amp, honed his skills, and began performing. In the three decades that followed, he added half a dozen instruments to his repertoire and learned to play blues, rock, jazz, R&B, funk and even country. He’s played thousands of gigs with popular cover bands and opened for well-known artists such as the Pat Travers Band. He currently has three album releases, JS being his latest.
Performing alongside Searfoss (vocals, guitar, bass, keyboards and percussion) are Chris Condel and Nick Lauro on drums; Matt McGasko and Harry Sipler on keyboards; Harry Sipler, Joe Bogwist, and Carolyn Falzone on vocals; and Mike Pryor on clarinet.
Most of the songs on this CD are short. However, “Good Good Woman,” the opener, leads things off with strong harmony and instrumentation running over six minutes long. “Roll Me Over,” a catchy sing-along, features a jazzy intro of high-hat drums and sweet keyboards from Matt McGasko. “A Beautiful Sunny Day” brings back the meditative side of the 1970’s; “Blindsided Blues” rocks things up (it’s a shredder song for sure), and later on, “Social Media Blues” is a scathing takedown of our culture’s most favorite pastime. “This morning I used the restroom. Didn’t cause nobody harm. When I finished the deed, I felt the need to post on my brand of Charmin…When I eat, when I sleep, there’s no secrets left to keep – social media.” The final track, “On the Run,” is a clever instrumental that closes the album nicely.
JS Blues proves that mellow, medium-key blues are the ticket for leisurely afternoons!