Brother Jefferson – Reflections
Blue Lotus Recordings – 2019
11 tracks; 52 minutes
Jeff Chapman put out a pair of independent releases back in 2009/10 which I enjoyed. Since then he has issued two more albums (including a live set) and now joins the St Louis-based Blue Lotus stable to release an album under the pseudonym Brother Jefferson. Jeff handles lead vocals and rhythm guitar, Brian Massey is on bass and backing vocals, Shane Maguire drums and Ian Buschmann tenor and baritone saxes; label chief Paul Niehaus IV plays lead guitar and keys and Kyle Yardley adds harp to one track. All the songs are Jeff’s originals with the lyrics for two written by an old schoolfriend, Wayne E Caniff. The album was recorded by Paul at the Blue Lotus studio in St Louis and mastered by Chris Latham in Nashville. The music is melodic and catchy and some falls into Americana or Southern Rock but there are certainly some blues elements here if you listen hard enough.
The album opens with a trio of good, rocking tunes. Jeff confesses that he would “beg, borrow or steal” “For Your Love” which has a catchy tune with elements of Southern Rock; sax player Ian adds depth with his support behind the vocals, as well as stepping out to take a solo. “That Open Road” sounds like a classic driving song and it does not disappoint: “I got the top rolled down and I’m feeling the breeze; I’ve got to crank up my old V8 Ford, it’s time to roll on down that open road”. Jeff’s core riff comes straight out of the Keith Richards guitar book and is well backed by Paul’s ringing guitar and Ian’s sax – great fun!. “The Mirror” slows the pace a bit but churns along on a bluesy riff, Jeff feeling his age as he cannot believe that the face in the mirror is actually his. A very pretty guitar motif opens “Be Your Man” which develops into an attractive country-tinged tune while “Slow Your Roll” is the first of two songs with Wayne’s lyrics. The song tries to put the brakes on someone’s crazy lifestyle with a fast-paced rhythm, Ian’s bubbling baritone and a busy guitar solo. “Hey Hey Pretty Mama” is a shuffle to take us to the half-way point on the disc.
An earlier version of “Scars” was released on the St Louis Blues Society’s 17 in 17 release, reviewed in the May 11 2018 edition of Blues Blast. It’s a ballad with a fine, brooding horn chart that supports Jeff’s strong vocals about people’s emotional struggles: “It may look like nothing’s wrong, that everything’s all right so far. I’m here to tell you that you would change your mind if you could only see their scars”. The next track has a lighter musical palette though Wayne’s lyrics are poignant as Jeff sings of the girl leaving to follow her dream, despite his warnings about “Chasing Rainbows”. The title “Hustle And Bustle” might make you expect a rocking track but in fact it has a cool groove with the sax heavily featured over some jazzy piano chords. The interplay between the guitars gives “Sending You My Love” a soul-blues feel as Jeff yearns to get back to his love; as on several tracks here Ian lays down a fine solo mid-tune and Paul a short but sweet solo towards the end. As a bonus track there is an acoustic take on “The Mirror”, a duet between Jeff on acoustic guitar and Kyle Yardley on harp, giving the song a country blues makeover.
This is another very enjoyable outing from Jeff and his musical cohorts. Not all blues by any means but plenty of good tunes to appreciate. Well worth a listen.