12 tracks / 50:53
It is not easy for working bands to get together the dosh to pay for studio time, but if a group has a good fan base, sometimes they can put together a crowd funding effort to make it possible. The Jon Spear Band was able to make this happen, courtesy of their loyal followers, and their Kickstarter campaign convinced more than 70 people to pledge funds towards their latest release. Well, it was worth it as Hot Sauce is a solid collection of blues tunes.
Though the Jon Spear Band has only been around for a few years, its members each have more than enough experience in the music business; in fact, Spear has been working professionally since the 1960s. This Virginia-based group only has a few records in their catalog (three, I think), but they have already been to the IBCs in Memphis twice, as their music is alluring and their live show is awesome. The line-up for this crew includes Jon Spear and Dara James on guitars and vocals (they switch off for leads on both) with a rhythm section of Andy Burdetsky on bass and John Stubblefield on drums.
Hot Sauce was recorded at Ravenwood Studios in Scottsville, Virginia with the engineering done by the producer, Andrew Waldeck, who is also quite a musician. The setlist includes a dozen songs, all of them originals that were written by the band and their friends. Themes for these tunes run the gamut from fun to serious, and there are a few history lessons included too!
The band has a sense of humor, as can be heard from tracks such as “Butt Dial Kyle” (no explanation needed), and the swinging rockabilly of “Really Great Gig.” Another upbeat tune is a real winner, “Hot Sauce,” which uses an endless list of similes to compare a lady to an array of spicy concoctions. This tune features amazing sax work from guest artist Ron Holloway (Warren Haynes Band), and very slick lead guitar from Dara James. Dara has a soulful voice, and he really howls on this rhythm and blues track.
But everything is not kicks and giggles on this release, as the band is also able to take on more serious subjects too. They wrote songs about the despair of the homeless (“Wintertime”), man’s insatiable craving to kill every other animal on the planet (”Noah’s Blues”), and a note of appreciation to our servicemen (“Blues for a Soldier’). The latter is a nice piece of blues-rock with a modern and melodic sound. This is a well-crafted track with the triple threat of killer guitar tone, the solid backline of Burdetsky and Stubblefield, and Hammond B3 courtesy of guest artist Butch Taylor.
In the history category, the band runs down the story of Pierre Jourdan’s death in 1814, and you will learn that this famous New Orleans gambler killed himself after losing his home in a card game. “Pierre Jourdan” is presented as a stripped down acoustic tune with Spears on vocals and guest artist Matty Metcalf on accordion, which provides the appropriate Crescent City vibe. There is also “Natchez Burning” which remembers the tragic Rhythm Club fire in Natchez Mississippi that killed over two hundred folks. James’ vocals and Dobro take the lead on this stripped-down acoustic song, and backing vocals are provided by Yolanda Jones and Nathaniel Star. Make sure you play the whole track, as there is a bonus jam at the end.
Hot Sauce is a fun album from The Jon Spear Band, and there is a little something for everybody in it. It is nice to see a band put the time and effort into writing and working out an entire disc of new music, and fortunately it has very good production too. You will have the chance to hear some of these tunes in person if you choose to hit up one of their shows in Virginia this summer. The band does a great job with their live shows too, so make sure you check out their website dates and venues!