Simon Kinny-Lewis – A Day In San Jose
9 songs, 40 minutes
Most musicians, and especially guitarist, love to play classic covers: the standards. It is a way for us to feel connected to our influences and show off all that foundational riffage that we learned when we were in the musical incubator that is awkward adolescence (which probably wasn’t cool then, but is now). Australian fusion guitar phenom, Simon Kinny-Lewis’ A Day In San Jose is just this kind of indulgent record of Blues standards. The incendiary guitarist has progressively been transforming his music from instrumental post 70’s fusion rock-jazz abstraction to singing rootsy Blues-Rock-Jazz hybrids. This newest all covers album is a sidebar, a companion piece to Kinny-Lewis’ evolving style; a quick, in the moment, meditative blast of Blues historical interpretation.
A Day In San Jose is a one off. Literally recorded live in the studio one day in San Jose, Kinny-Lewis and a strong mostly California based band, charge through the 9 songs with reckless abandon. Harmonica ace Andy Just is featured and brings a level of authenticity to the old school material and rough counterpoint to Kinny-Lewis’ fluidity. Nate Ginsberg on keyboards adds depth and atmosphere and takes a few well structured solos. Walter Jebe adds slide guitar giving variation and added voice. Tony Boyd on drums and Dewayne Pate on bass lay down a solid rock foundation for all the proceedings. This band runs through well tread Blues workhorses with solid fidelity: “Further on Up the Road,” “Hoochie Coochie Man,” “Rollin’ and Tumblin’,” “Walking Blues” and a swinging up tempo pass at “Have You Ever Loved a Woman.” All fairly straight ahead arrangements and performances with a rock crack to them as opposed to the poly rhythmic shuffle of the originals.
A Day In San Jose really blooms and takes flight when Kinny-Lewis pushes his fluid highly effected fusion chops. A scorching take of Clapton’s arrangement of “Crossroads” blasts out the gate at a breakneck speed. Kinny-Lewis covered “Crossroads” on his 2017 acoustic album Catfish. Here, Simon is channeling the Cream-era Clapton, feverishly biting each of his impassioned vocal lines with soaring and decidedly modern guitar fireworks. Equally powerful, but more syncopated, is the upfront reading of Robben Ford’s “Chevrolet.” Adding menace and conviction, Kinny-Lewis does a fine job covering Ford, the guitarists’ guitar-god. Kinny-Lewis simmers and burns on the slow Blues take of Buddy Holly’s “Raining in My Heart” written by the hit making couple Felice and Boudleaux Bryant. “Raining” is a truly transcendent moment on this album. The pyrotechnics and locomotive surge of the other material is set aside and Kinny-Lewis is given the space to simply stand and testify the real deal Blues. Staying true to his identity by continuing to play with a thoroughly modern sound and style, Simon creates a moment of intersection in which tradition, modern approaches and personal style are enriched by pure emotional release.
Simon Kinny-Lewis is doing that most noble of musical work – finding personal expression through tradition and technique. The final number on A Day In San Jose is a take on the Delta classic “Nobody’s Fault But Mine.” Using Smooth Jazz lushness and thrillingly articulate instrumental passages, Kinny-Lewis and band honor the emotional depth of Blind Willie Johnson’s original by holding fast to their musical aesthetic and concept. This song is a fitting end to this album. Moving through standard reads to hyped up deconstruction and finally unique personal expression, Simon Kenny-Lewis ends, hopefully, with a marker of things to come.